Category Archives: Classic Movies

Patty-fingers in the Holy Water

Of all the classic films set in Ireland or about Ireland and it’s people, there’s only one I consider absolutely perfect for lighthearted St. Patrick’s Day viewing. It boasts all the elements essential to movie perfection: stunning technicolor, a matchless cast of the best character actors of the time, a musical score guaranteed to get your toes tapping and an endearing love story. Yes, that’s right – The Quiet Man.

Trivia and stories abound when it comes to The Quiet Man. There’s the day John Wayne accidentally sprained Maureen O’Hara’s wrist in the famous kiss scene by unexpectedly blocking her slap. Or the dirty trick the Duke and John Ford played on Maureen for the scenes where she gets dragged across the sheep fields (operative word there being sheep). But by far the best story is the explanation about the last scene, where Maureen whispers something to the Duke and he stares at her in disbelief. Maureen speaks of it often, but there’s always one detail she leaves out:

There is only one fitting way to end our discussion of The Quiet Man, and that’s with a whisper. No matter what part of the world I’m in, the question I am always asked is: “What did you whisper into John Wayne’s ear at the end of The Quiet Man? It was John Ford’s idea; it was the ending he wanted. I was told by Mr. Ford exactly what I was to say. At first I refused. I said, “No, I can’t. I can’t say that to Duke.” But Mr. Ford wanted a very shocked reaction from Duke, and he said, “I’m telling you, you are to say it.”

I had no choice, and so I agreed, but with a catch: “I’ll say it on one condition; that it is never ever repeated or revealed to anyone.” So we made a deal. After the scene was over, we told Duke about our agreement and the three of us made a pact. There are those who claim that they were told and know what I said. They don’t and are lying. John Ford took it to his grave, so did Duke and the answer will die with me.

Curiosity about the whisper has become a great part of the Quiet Man legend. I have no doubt that as long as the film endures, so will the speculation. The Quiet Man meant so much to John Ford, John Wayne, and myself. I know it was their favorite picture too. It bonded us as artists and friends in a way that happens only but once in a career. That little piece of The Quiet Man belongs to just us, and so I hope you’ll understand as I answer:

I’ll never tell – Maureen O’Hara

source

Though the movie fan in me is saddened at the thought this piece of history will never be revealed, I love Maureen for preserving this memory and keeping the secret. Her devotion to her friends and the times they shared making the film touches my heart. And if I were one of the people who knew magic phrase to make John Wayne’s head snap, I wouldn’t tell either.

The Quiet Man is one of my favorite films, not just to watch for St. Patrick’s Day, but for all time. The teaming of Maureen and John Wayne is one of the few on screen castings that actually deserves the title of “electric.” Since TCM decided to give The Quiet Man a miss for the lineup today, head over to YouTube, where a very kind soul has uploaded the film in its entirety.

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Gossip with The Women

1939’s The Women bestowed a wealth of gloriously iconic dialogue and imagery on the world. Rosalind Russell’s “Seeing Eye” Blouse designed by Adrian, Rosalind and Phyllis Povah landing heads-first into a passing department store cart and my personal favorite: “Jungle red!”

But there is one disconcerting aspect of the film I could never find an explanation for…until now. The poodle-like hairstyles. Every woman in the production (except the blissfully spared Paulette Goddard) sports an unbecoming mass of tightly woven curls on her head. If any of the ladies had long hair at the time, it’s well disguised and contained with the most permanent of waves ever to grace a screen.

Well, it seems at least one of the ladies has a practical reason for her poodle curls, according to the gossip column of Silver Screen’s August 1939 issue:

Joan had every right to be “horrified” if you ask me. Even the masterful snips and curls of Sidney Guilaroff couldn’t transform her botched perm into an acceptable hairstyle. I can’t help wondering if the rest of the ladies’ hair was styled to match Joan’s just so her chopped locks would not stand out. And then I started wondering why Paulette Goddard sported soft shoulder length tresses while the others went for the chop? My only explanation is that it really paid to be married to Charlie Chaplin!

The same column leaked a tidbit about Adrian’s shocking fashions, too. If those clothes in the fashion show sequence are still fascinating and slightly odd to this day, imagine what movie-goers thought of them at the time. No wonder Silver Screen attempted to prepare everyone:

Joan is seriously displeased with the new do.

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My Art: End of the Line

As you may have already deduced, I graduated from college earlier this year. Graduated! Diploma and all. In order to graduate, I needed to create a Senior Project and display it in a local gallery. This I did and had a great time in the process. You will not be surprised to learn that I used this project as an excuse to sit around and watch classic films as research. So, please have a look! I’m finally ready to share it with you.The project is a marketing campaign for a classic film festival I named End of the Line. It’s a festival of 5 classic Noir films all centering around trains. It took me ages to decide which to choose, but I narrowed it down to:

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Terror By Night (1946)

The Tall Target (1951)

The Narrow Margin (1952)

The campaign consists of a logo, 5 redesigned film posters, 6 ticket designs, a website and a display area for the gallery. In addition, I designed trading cards with my information on them to give to patrons and a teaser poster to advertise my project at the show. We needed to have an artist’s statement/thesis to hang on the wall next to our projects, too.

THESIS

In the creation of a marketing campaign for a five film festival of classic Noir drams, I highlight fresh aspects of the films presented. With the intent of piquing the interest of young adults, I have rebranded the films with vintage inspired graphics and factual interpretations of the plots. The common thread tying all five films together is the fact that each plot centers around a train journey gone awry.

The supporting promotional materials serve both a functional and commemorative purpose in the campaign. Intended for use in small theatres across the country, the campaign would be available for owners to purchase and host at their discretion.

THE POSTERS

One of the reasons I decided to pursue this project was the frustration I felt attempting to explain the incredible world of classic movies to people my age. I have actually talked with people who refused to watch a classic film “because it’s black and white.” I remember the conversation well, probably because that comment was akin to The Hulk punching me in the face. Before that, I naively believed everyone would be excited to hear about this wonderful cinematic world I had discovered.

Armed with this knowledge of general oafishness, I set out to reveal the stylish, fascinating and wholly worthy nature of classic movies in a way the younger generations could appreciate. I soon realized the most important piece of this mission would be the redesigned posters. Clean, bold and easy to understand at a glance were my goals. I wanted to depict the films truthfully and in a visually appealing way without giving away any plot points, but at the same time hold the interest of diehard fans.

THE TICKETS

The tickets were the easiest piece to design, but the hardest to get printed successfully. If you look closely, you can see every one of them is perforated so the stub can be separated from the ticket. The festival pass even has 5 perforations on the same ticket. You can imagine how a printer handled this. They printed the tickets (all 350 of them…) and forgot to perforate them. I nearly died when the man called and told me that the day before the show opened. I’m not a pushy person at all, but I told him in no uncertain terms he better get them fixed and fast. Thankfully, they were.

Anyway, for these tickets I wanted to combine the idea of movie tickets and train tickets with the integration of a vintage railroad hole puncher. Every ticket has a white circle on the back to be punched at the time you enter the theatre. It’s a purely commemorative gesture, but I felt it was an important touch to lend a train journey feel to the promotional materials. This punch was a lucky Etsy find – it creates a bee wing shape!

THE WEBSITE

eotlff.com – This little site made me so happy when it was finished. I wrote the code for every single thing you see there. All the hovers, all the links, every image you see. I typed out every single character that makes this site work. I even bought a domain and uploaded the whole tidy little package to the server. Be sure to take a peek at the Films page. That was my favorite part to code. (I’m told it doesn’t look to full advantage in Internet Explorer, though…)

THE DISPLAY

Apologies for the subpar photos – no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get a decent photo in this space! It looked marvelous in person, I promise. The black backdrop is a 6′ by 8′ vinyl banner I designed. See those map dots? Those are the actual departure and destination cities in each of the movies, arranged with mild geographical accuracy. (I fretted over the fact it wasn’t geographically correct for months. Eventually, I realized it didn’t matter all that much.) The vintage suitcases were an almost-last-minute revelation that helped bring the whole project together. I tied the stacks with jute rope and thick wire to prevent anyone walking off with them. It worked well!

The incredible sample suitcase served as a holder for the tickets and trading cards. Visitors to the show were allowed to take those as souvenirs. I had to take this suitcase to a metal shop and have a piece of metal cut to fit so it would stay open. The man who helped me figure out the fix was the nicest guy. He made the problem of transforming this suitcase into a display piece a fun adventure, instead of the headache I was anticipating.

THE TEASER POSTER

About a month before the show opened in the main gallery, a smaller gallery hosted a show of the teaser posters my class created. The design above was one of my original ideas, but I couldn’t find a way to make it work with one of the movies. It turned out to be the perfect solution for this poster. The blue circle contains a block of text we absolutely had to have on our posters (mandate from the college’s marketing department). It contained the name of our college and the exact place of the main show. I’ve changed it to gibberish now, but you get the idea. At the time, the QR code in the lower right corner created a reminder for the event in your phone if you scanned it. It now leads straight back here to my blog.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Even though this was the only project I’ve ever worked on that brought me close to tears, it’s my favorite. I’m proud of it, even after looking at it for the first time since it was completed back in April. (I have a policy of putting away all my finished work and taking it out again months later to reassess it. When you are in the thick of an idea, it’s difficult to see it with critical eyes.) That said, I’m really interested in your opinions. In fact, the whole time I worked on this, I kept considering what you guys would think. Did I do the films justice? Are the posters appealing to people who know all about the films? You tell me.

I’ve finally summoned up enough courage to share this here, so please don’t be shy with your thoughts!

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Welcome Back, Bob

As you have probably already heard from the triumphant fanfare around the interwebs, TCM’s beloved host Robert Osborne is returning to his hosting duties this Thursday (December 1). Bobby O (as I call him) has been on vacation these past few months to the chagrin and dismay of many a classic film fan. His short absence only served to prove how much we truly need him because though some of the hosts were superb (and others need to be quickly forgotten…) no one even came close to replicating the charm, charisma, sincerity and sheer brilliance of Robert Osborne.

I know the universal love for Bobby O is hard to understand for people who are deprived of TCM. Let me try to explain. You see, every night Robert Osborne introduces the movies starting at 8pm. The introductions are quite short, considering the impact they have on viewers – usually between 5-7 minutes. But in those short moments, Bobby O shares trivia, stories, history and tidbits about the movie about to be shown. It’s like having a window into the time the movie was made, just to hear him talk. He’ll explain what else was happening at the time the film was made, who else was considered for the parts, why the cast was picked and who was in love with who at the time. He’ll point out scenes not to be missed or bit part appearances of yet-to-be stars. And he shares all this with a genuine warmth of feeling and care not only for the films but for you as a viewer. Robert Osborne is your amazingly knowledgeable friend who loves talking about movies and dropping film facts for you to enjoy.

I owe all my initial knowledge of 1939 as a landmark film production year to him and his introductions of the TCM Spotlight on 1939 some years ago. Even now, I can never watch Gone With the Wind, The Women, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Gunga Din or Ninotchka without thinking of him and remembering his comments on the films at the time.

My other favorite Bobby O memories are those little spots TCM used to play where he read viewer questions and answered them. I assume as the channel grew, it became too difficult to continue making those, but I was smitten with them. It was a little moment where the great Robert Osborne interacted with us as viewers and took the time to discuss what interested us.

His appeal for me is his unshakable devotion to classic films. When he stands in front of the camera and introduces a movie, you know he really cares about what he is saying. He gets it that these movies are incredibly special and need to be treated with respect. Plus, it’s pretty obvious he is as fervent a classic film fan as any of us. I just adore him and am so happy he is returning to his rightful place at the head of TCM. Welcome back, Bobby!

To join in this wonderful Welcome Back Bob party, check out the fabulous Tumblr started by @willmckinley and @misscarley. Many thanks to them for organizing our Bobby O adoration!

12/1/11 Edit – This post was quoted in a Slate.com blog article here!

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Mary Martin & Larry Hagman, circa 1940

Yesterday on Twitter, I asked my followers if the fact that Larry Hagman is Mary Martin‘s son is well known. I received a resounding YES in reply – I think I must be the only person alive who didn’t know this! I put forth the query because I found the above article in a vintage movie magazine – the May 1940 issue of Modern Screen, to be precise. In the caption of the large photo of Mary Martin, it speaks of her 8-year-old son Larry Hagman. I read the name and kept thinking, “Larry Hagman, I know who that is!” Upon examination of his IMDb page, I noticed his real name is Larry Hageman, so I went to check if his name was spelled this way in the article. Nope – it’s Hagman, his stage name. Kinda amazing that Mary had already changed his name so early in life!*

He’s only mentioned twice in the article – once in the photo caption, and once at the end of the text on the first page. But it’s really interesting nonetheless. Why bring him up at all? Why use his full name that way? Ah, the mysteries of classic Hollywood!

(click the images above to enlarge them and for further enlargement click Permalink at the bottom of each)

*See Linda’s wonderful comment below – IMDb is wrong. She provides great insight into the truth about Larry’s last name.

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Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Estate Auction

Doyle New York will be auctioning the Estate of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. on September 13, 2011. Among the items for sale are several lovely portraits of DFJ and collections of movie memorabilia. Also, his gorgeous red chair and desk.

You can view the entire catalog online here.

This is such an odd post for me to write. Even though I am fully aware my beloved Douglas Fairbanks Jr. departed from this earth 11 years ago, I always assume he’s still here – swashing and buckling his way to many a lady’s heart. When I began seeing reports of an auction of his personal effects, it stirred mixed feelings. As an avid DFJ lover, it excited me to get to see (and perhaps even acquire) some of his personal belongings. But it also saddened me, because there is something so tragic about the loss of treasured items – especially when the items are sold at auction to the highest bidder. I sincerely hope each piece goes home with someone who appreciates how special it is.

View the entire catalog online here.

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An Interview with Patricia Hammond, part 2

Yesterday, I brought you the first half of my interview with Patricia Hammond, The Canadian Nightingale. Today I have the conclusion for you where Patricia and I compared notes on dressing vintage, fixing vintage hairstyles, finished up our chat about classic film stars and looked back on childhood memories.

–:–:–Continued from Interview With Patricia Hammond, Part 1–:–:–

You also like Lizabeth Scott, I have to say, I think she’s amazing. She’s my favorite Noir person.. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

Ohh yes! Well, isn’t that Barbara Stanwyck?

Yes, it’s Barbara Stanwyck, but Lizabeth Scott just, I think she steals it.

Yes, she does, it’s true!

I love it, she’s so feral. She’s so like a little wild animal. She talks like a kind of old man.

[laughter]

It’s true, sort of out of the side of her mouth a little bit?

Yes! “I’ve got a bus to catch…”

[laughter]

She sang, she was dubbed in a lot of these films, but she actually sang and I think she released an album.

I didn’t know that!

Oh yeah! I think she appears on- not the Ed Sullivan show, but one of those variety shows, actually singing from her album. And it’s a very different voice from what usually dubs her.

Oh my gosh. See I could never understand the point of dubbing actors and actresses who really could sing.

Yes, I know! There was this famous man – Dana Andrews?

Yes, Dana Andrews!

He’s on your list!

[laughter] Yes he is!

He was in, was it State Fair?

Yes, it was!

He was a professional baritone, and yet he was dubbed. And somebody said, “Why on earth, with your ability would you ever let that happen?” And he said, “Oh, the guy probably needed the money.”

Yes, he didn’t want to take to the job away.

Isn’t that sweet?

It is sweet! He was a great guy. I do wish he had been able to sing it though.

Oh, I know isn’t it a shame.

I notice for the photos on your website you are all dolled up in vintage attire. Do you actually wear vintage clothes, like everyday?

Well, this is what I think is so great about what you do. You actually make up clothes from vintage patterns.

Yes!

Which is brilliant, I think that’s wonderful because then you can actually wear them like they would have in the day. If you’re wearing something vintage, I don’t know about other people, but I fear for them. I think, “Oh this thing has made it unscathed more or less through 70 years and here I am wearing it on this filthy bus!”

Precisely.

I don’t want anything to happen to it, it’s an old survivor. But if it’s a replica, I can live a normal life in these wonderful clothes. But yeah, I wear a lot of replicas. I like some Betty Page. It’s made in Las Vegas.

Yes, I know, isn’t it neat?

Yes. I’m not one for the big crinoline thing, that’s too late for me. There’s one here called Silk and Sawdust. Kind of expensive, but they are all handmade by this girl. I wish I was like you and could make my own clothes.

It’s very fun. Because you get to pretend that you’re back in the 40s making it, saving your pennies.

Exactly, when choosing the material was where you got excited.

Yes!

It’s so wonderful to have that concept of going to a shop and saying, “Ooh I like this calico! I like this calico here.” It’s like the Little House Books!

You’re right, it is!

Oh I love those books, especially the first one. The Little House in the Big Woods. And yeah, precisely that happens. They go to the big town and Ma gets really excited about the bolts of fabric. It’s a great process.

Yes, it really is. And it makes you think more about your clothes. Why you are making it, where you’re going to wear it. It’s not so much of an impulse buying thing.

Yes, you really think about it. Having said that, places like TopShop and H&M are really into vintage. They literally copy old patterns now. I think it’s pretty official that they do that. So, if you really steel yourself and go there and get over the idea that the clothes are made in China under pretty bad working conditions, you can pick up some pretty convincing clothes.

When I perform my pre-war or first world war stuff I wear dresses by this lady in California called Nataya – they are really convincing. I don’t think she sets out to be a replica dress designer, but she certainly is taking her inspiration from that time.

Do you wear hats, too?

I love hats!

I do too!

Oh, hats are great. Do you ever find that it’s much easier to match the dress to the hat, than the hat to the dress?

YES.

[laughter]

Yeah, a really nice hat, there is nothing like it. But I don’t tend to perform in them because I think they obscure the facial expressions. They kind of make me feel less free with the song somehow.

Do you have a vintage hairstyle, as well?

I have a couple of vintage wigs.

You do?

Confessions, confessions! Here in East London, there is a street near Finsbury Park tube station which is basically a street of wigs. It’s loads of wigs. And I found this wonderful 20s bob made of real hair which is so convincing. And when you have a 20s bob in real life, you’re kind of stuck with it.

Yeah.

That’s it. But it’s so good. Just to be able to stick that on your head and not worry. Because it’s got bangs. And also, snoods are really useful.

Oh, yes! I have snoods too.

Oh, gosh! Because when you are doing a vintage hairstyle, it’s always the ends. It has to be all sort of packaged in there and all smooth. And you cannot have stragglers really, to be truly authentic and that’s a real drag.

It is! That’s the hard part.

So, a snood just answers all of that. You stick your hair in there and there it is!

Yup, and you’re done and it’s really easy and fast.

Yes, stick a flower in if you’re being fancy. And hairpieces are really, really useful. They used them at the time, as well. Those kind of clip-in, kind of braided buns.

And actual curls and things that they would put on top of their head.

Yes, yes, yes. The main thing I find is the fringe – I keep saying fringe, but you say bangs!

Oh, yes!

That was my first kind of- when I moved over here from Canada it was my first thing that I had to change. Bangs to fringe.

Did you change a lot of your phrasing when you moved?

A few things. Lift instead of elevator. Interval instead of intermission. But yeah, I had to change quite a few things. Oh yeah – thong, say flipflop instead. Because thong is actually a skimpy undergarment.

[laughter]

Did you have trouble growing up with the other kids not wanting to hear about your love for vintage music?

YES! Yes, yes. Absolutely. Did you?

Somewhat. I kind of distanced myself from people who didn’t agree with me.

Good for you! Did you go to a school that was large enough that you could find a few friends?

Yes, I had a little group of one or two.

Elementary school, I went to a school with like 90 kids in it.

Oh wow.

Yeah, that was tough because there was nobody else. Absolutely nobody else who was interested in old things. I got teased horribly for dressing in thrift store clothes. Oh that’s another: English to American or American to English, is charity shop and thrift store.

Oh yes! I love charity shop, I think that sounds better.

[Laughing] Sweet. But I was teased for dressing in thrift shop clothes, which it was a financial necessity in my case. It wasn’t so much of a conscious decision, but then it became a conscious decision.

Yeah, it’s very popular to do right now.

Yeah! It it sounds like with your friends, the same thing. When I went to high school and there were more kids, there were a couple of punks and they absolutely respected my desire to be different. It wasn’t different in the way they were different, but because it was different in itself, it was laudable. So that was good. I’m kind of a vintage punk in a way.

Well, at least you were able to find somebody who could understand it on some level!

Yeah, yeah yeah! Do you have scene where you are?

Well, we have a small vintage dancing culture, but it’s not at all like the vintage world you have in England. You’re so lucky to have the clubs and the stores. It’s amazing. We don’t have anything like that here.

It’s really caught on here, it’s funny because when I was in Vancouver in the mid-nineties, there was all this huge swing dance, burlesque, vintage scene and that was back in the mid-90s and then it kind of faded away. And then it came to London – kind of. Like, sort of 2003, 2004 and now everywhere you look there is burlesque, there’s vintage, there’s reenactors – everything. There was always a big reenactor scene, I think with vintage cars and that sort of thing, but yeah, it’s really caught on.

Yeah, here in America, all we really have are the cars and the people who know about the cars. There’s never really anybody who dresses up in the era and does anything, except for maybe like actual World War II military reenactments sometimes.

Yeah, that’s what we’ve always had. Yes. I think that always is going to be there. But it’s interesting the different layers of nostalgia. But it’s funny that musically, there usually it’s “Oh yes, we’ll have a vintage DJ!” But actually having a genuine band is much more rare then you might imagine.

I hope that with this CD, it will bring forward another genre, another kind of thing. It’s not classical, it’s not jazz, it’s not crossover. It’s its own thing.

Yes, it’s a whole entire style in and of itself.

Yeah, it is exactly that. And it’s hard to define. Old songs, nostalgia. I just like to say it’s just songs.

Yes, truly good songs, sung by a lady who really knows how to sing!

Awwww! Wow! I like this!

Well that’s so rare now, to have people who can actually sing.

Well, it’s funny – you don’t want opera singers to do it because they’ll sort of strangle the life out of it. They’ll make it so arch and big and you lose all the intimacy.

Right, you can’t understand the lyrics.

Yeah, and modern singers kind of bring their own modern sensibility to it and it turns into something different. Though I wouldn’t like to think that I’m kind of stuck away in another world or stagnant in any way. I just like to think that this is how, when I look at the old music, it kind of jumps out at me. And then I work with these musicians who are amazing. The two who did the arrangements for the album, Matt Redman and Nick Ball. These young guys – they are so clever and are really very good at looking at what’s on the page and saying, “Oh I hear a flute there,” or “I think this could really have an early ragtime kind of feel.” then bringing out, say, a mandolin and a pair of spoons! It’s just fleshing out the bones and I hope there’s a lot of flesh.

Yes, I think there is! It has a great sound, a really full-bodied sound and it draws you in. It’s the sort of thing- I was listening to it this morning – you kind of can’t do anything else while you’re listening to it. It’s so captivating.

Ohhh! Oh that’s wonderful! Well, I’d like to think that people can.

Well, at least on the first listen, you have to stop and really listen to all of it, because there is just so much to hear.

Oh that’s marvelous! That’s really wonderful!

Thank you so much for giving me the chance to talk with you, Patricia. I had a wonderful time!

Well, likewise! I wish you lived nearby, we could watch the Strange Love of Martha Ivers!

I wish I did, too! I would love to come and watch you perform. If you come to America, I’m definitely coming to see you!

Oh, I hope we’re coming to America. That would be fantastic!

–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–:–

I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to Patricia and her publicity team for giving me the chance to talk with her. And I urge all of you to head over to her website and check out the tracks from her new CD! And after that check out her new blog!

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