Tag Archives: Barbara Stanwyck

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!

Advertisements

13 Comments

Filed under Classic Movies, Music

Marilyn Monroe {180 Tag}

My friend Kate of Silents and Talkies started a tag last week that I think is pure genius.  I liked the idea so much, I’ve decided to tag myself with it.

Here’s Kate’s criteria: “Name an actor, actress or director that you started out despising (or just really not liking) but ended up loving. Or vice versa, someone you started out loving and ended up despising (or just really not liking) — and explain why.

I’m sure I’m going to shock some people with my choice for this tag, but I love shocking people so here goes – My choice is Marilyn Monroe, “a star I started out despising and ended up loving.”

“But how can you dislike Marilyn?” you cry incredulously, the indignation rising. I’ll try to explain.

When I was a budding early teen film fan, I saw snippets of Marilyn in Bus Stop and Clash By Night. I don’t think I ever watched either film totally through until much later. I did make it through Some Like It Hot, and while boosting my crushes on Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, it did nothing to alleviate my prejudice against Marilyn.  When I saw Marilyn on screen, her sexy whisper grated on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. The dumb blonde image she often embodied offended me to no end.  The entire idea of Marilyn as nothing more than a sex symbol put me off in every way. I’m a modest creature by nature (probably very modest according to modern standards) so at the time, the whole “in your face” sexuality Marilyn oozed just made my skin crawl. She reminded me too much of the modern culture I was vigorously fighting against.

After many years of living in “Marilyn Despisal,” I had my epiphany last year. The Film Noir Classic Collection box sets were on sale at Amazon, so like a good Noir fan, I snatched them up right away. Looking over the films included in each set, I saw Clash By Night was in Volume 2. It was disappointing, not only because it wasn’t a favorite of mine, but because I couldn’t understand how it was considered Film Noir. Despite these objections, I bought it anyway. My mom and I made our way through each box set, one by one. When it came time to watch Clash By Night, I wasn’t expecting much but decided to give it chance. The result was a complete turnaround on my views of Marilyn.

Maybe it happened because I have matured, maybe I was just in a weak moment, or maybe it was just my time to become a Marilyn fan. No matter what the reason, Marilyn disarmed me with her fresh honesty, sweetness, and down to earth manner. Marilyn was gorgeous, but she acted like she didn’t know or care. She was (or at least seemed) blissfully ignorant of her physical beauty. It’s a truly remarkable quality found in few. I get so annoyed with modern female film stars who walk around virtually screaming “Hey, look at me, I think I’m drop dead gorgeous!” And, it’s practically never true, anyway.  Marilyn comes up tops against them all.

Clash By Night is one of my favorite Marilyn films for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned plus one more.  The chemistry she has with Keith Andes is electric. If you ask me, Marilyn and Keith steal the whole film from Barbara Stanwyck and Paul Douglas (I say this even as a huge Paul Douglas fan). It’s obvious Marilyn and Keith’s characters have a strong physical attraction to each other, but they also share a meaningful friendship which allows them to kid around and just be silly. It’s easy to imagine their characters having a successful marriage, still being able to laugh with each other even 50 years on.

So, now as a Marilyn Monroe convert, I seek out every film she made, finding that each and every one has merit of some kind and is a wonderful film. She’s one of those actors who guarantees the success of a picture by her very presence. I recommend all of her films I have mentioned in this post. Her whisper has grown on me over time, and I now see it as a reflection of her shyness. The dumb blonde cliche which offended me so much before now only serves to remind me of the real Marilyn, who was not dumb at all. In fact, she was smart enough to figure out a way to escape her type-casting that studio heads would be forced to accept. And while I can recognize the image of Marilyn as a sex symbol, I have learned to look past it and see her as the kind hearted, fragile person she actually was. I suppose, in the end, Marilyn has the last laugh on me. And you know what? I don’t mind a bit.

And with that, I hereby tag the following bloggers with the 180:

Nicole at Classic Hollywood Nerd

Laura at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

Matthew at Movietone News

(Have you ever noticed how I tag a lot of the same people? I hope they don’t get mad at me!)

If you would like to do a 180 of your very own, go ahead! Don’t be shy: write it up, post it and let me know. I’ll link it for you here as one of my tag-ees.

11 Comments

Filed under Film Bloggers, Noir, Tags & Awards