Category Archives: Blogathons

The Power of an Original Song

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head

How many of you had “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” pop into your head just by looking at this picture?

For me, one of the most exciting Academy Award categories is Best Original Song.  The union of film and music can be a truly magical thing.  Few things can take an already great movie and make it even better than adding the right song at just the right moment.  If done right, an outstanding original song can be one of the best assets a movie can have.

In many cases, songs written for movies go on to become hits in their own rights.  Remember how you couldn’t go anywhere in 1997 without hearing “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic?  In a few cases, songs written for movies have transcended “hit” status and gone on to become some of the most popular songs ever written.  If it weren’t for The Wizard  of Oz and Buck Privates, we wouldn’t have the songs “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.”

Sometimes a song becomes more fondly remembered than the movie it was written for.  Thank God It’s Friday is hardly a celebrated film, but its song “Last Dance” won a Best Original Song Oscar and became a classic disco hit.

But most importantly, the right original song can become a symbol for a movie.  After all, what would a James Bond movie be without a great theme song like “Nobody Does it Better” or “Live and Let Die?”  In just a few minutes, a song can evoke the mood of a scene, sum up the tone of the movie, or represent a character’s attitude.

Some of the best original movie songs don’t even need a few minutes to accomplish those things — they become so strongly associated with their movies that listeners can make the connection in a matter of seconds.  Allow me to demonstrate.  I’ve compiled clips from 20 of my favorite Best Original Song winners and nominees, each under twenty seconds long, and they get progressively shorter until the last clip is just one word.  But if you’ve seen the movies these songs were written for, even the shortest clips will be enough to bring an image from the movie to mind.

A few bars of “Moon River” is all it takes to conjure up the image of Audrey Hepburn standing in front of Tiffany’s with her black dress and pastry.  Seven seconds of “I Will Wait For You” brought me back to Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo’s poignant farewell at a train station in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.  The entire essence of Pinocchio can be summed up with just the words, “When you wish upon a star.”  I didn’t even need Bing Crosby or Judy Garland to finish their lines to be reminded of Holiday Inn or The Wizard of Oz.  That is just how potent the right combination of music and film can be.

31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

Thanks to Outspoken and Freckled, Paula’s Cinema Club, and Once Upon a Screen for once again hosting the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon! Be sure to pay them a visit and check out some of the other contributions!

Dead Ringer (1964)

Bette Davis Dead RingerIn their youth, twin sisters Edith and Margaret (Bette Davis in a dual role) were both in love with Frank DeLorca.  Even though Frank had been pursing Edith first, Edith’s relationship with Frank comes to an end when Margaret announces that she’s pregnant with Frank’s baby and they are to be married.  Edith doesn’t see Margaret again until eighteen years later when they are reunited at Frank’s funeral.

After the burial, Edith visits Margaret at her home and all of Edith’s past resentment comes rushing back to her.  Frank had come from a very wealthy family so while he and Margaret were living in the lap of luxury, Edith was struggling to make the cocktail lounge she owns financially solvent. To make things even worse, she finds out that Margaret was never really pregnant all those years before.  With so many financial problems hanging over her head, Edith plans to get Margaret to come over, kill her, and switch clothes with Margaret so it looks like Edith committed suicide and Edith can assume Margaret’s identity.

Even though Edith has no problem physically passing as Margaret, she struggles to cover up the differences in their behaviors.  But as Edith spends more and more time living Margaret’s life, she discovers that Margaret had a few skeletons in her closet — specifically one named Tony Collins (Peter Lawford).  And with police sergeant Jim Hobbson (Karl Malden), who had been dating Edith, getting involved, can Edith keep up the act?

I’ve always thought Dead Ringer was one of Bette Davis’ more under-appreciated movies.  What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is generally thought to be Bette’s last significant movie, but she made a few gems after that and Dead Ringer is one of them.  It has its moments of pure camp; the scene where Margaret offers Edith money and Edith yells, “You haven’t got that much!” before knocking the checkbook out of her hands and shoving her into a chair is the stuff Bette Davis drag queen impersonator dreams are made of.  And you have to admit that the whole concept of getting to see Bette Davis duke it out with herself on screen is pretty campy in and of itself.

But on the whole, Dead Ringer is actually a very interesting thriller.  Bette has a field day in this movie; she’s great in both roles. The story has plenty of suspense and twists to keep you wanting more.  I love its supporting cast; Karl Malden is good and even though I don’t generally care much about Peter Lawford, I loved how wonderfully sleazy he was in this.  The musical score by André Previn serves as the icing on the cake.  Dead Ringer also features some fine direction from Bette’s Now, Voyager and Deception co-star Paul Henreid.

A word of warning: If you have never seen Dead Ringer, do yourself a favor and do NOT watch the trailer first! It’s one of those trailers that gives away absolutely everything.

Dueling Divas Blogathon 2013

Thanks to Lara from Backlots for hosting the third annual Dueling Divas Blogathon! Head on over to Backlots to read more contributions.

My Favorite Pre-Code Journalists

As you will see with this weekend’s Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon (hosted by Comet Over Hollywood and Lindsay’s Movie Musings), there are plenty of great movies that feature memorable journalists.  Citizen Kane, His Girl Friday, All the President’s Men, just to name a few.  But for me, my favorite reporters in movies were all from the pre-code era.

Clark Gable It Happened One NightClark Gable as Peter Warne in It Happened One Night

Now Peter Warne is a reporter who will go to any length to get a good story.  And you gotta admit, he put up with a lot of nonsense from Ellie on their trip together.  But when it comes down to it, Peter isn’t a greedy man.  After falling in love with Ellie, he just wants to publish his story so he can have the money to marry her.  And even when it looks like she’s left him to go back to Westley, he still doesn’t care about the huge reward.  All he wants cares about is getting his expenses reimbursed.

Joan Crawford in Dance, Fools, DanceJoan Crawford as Bonnie Jordan in Dance, Fools, Dance

Bonnie Jordan may be just a rookie reporter, but she also goes the extra mile for her job.  When one of her fellow reporters is killed while investigating gangster Jake Luva (played by Clark Gable), her editor sends her to find out who is responsible for his death.  So Bonnie takes a job dancing in Jake’s nightclub so she can get close to him.  Of course, she ends up biting more than she can chew and even though she gets her story, she decides being a reporter just isn’t right for her after all.  But you’ve certainly got to give her credit for giving it her all.

Glenda Farrell in Mystery of the Wax MuseumGlenda Farrell as Florence Dempsey in Mystery of the Wax Museum

You can always count on Glenda Farrell to bring plenty of sass to her characters and Mystery of the Wax Museum is no exception.  Not only is Florence sassy, she can dig up stories on slow news days and is smart enough to figure out what’s really happening at the wax museum.  Every newspaper needs a Florence Dempsey type on their staff.

James Cagney in Picture SnatcherJames Cagney as Danny Keane in Picture Snatcher

Gotta love Danny Keane.  After giving up being a gangster, he decides to pursue his lifelong dream of being a newspaper reporter.  He doesn’t work at the best paper in town, but he makes the most of the opportunity.  Danny is clever, resourceful, and not afraid to break the rules, so he excels at getting some hard-to-get pictures for the paper.  Even though he’s not the most ethical journalist, he’s not cold and ruthless, either.  When he goes too far on the job and ends up hurting the girl he’s fallen in love with, he feels just awful about it.

Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon Banner

For more contributions to the Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon, head on over to Comet Over Hollywood or Lindsay’s Movie Musings.

Five Reasons Why I Love Bette Davis

Bette Davis

1.  She was talented.

Enough said.

2.  Who needs glamour when you can have realism?

When Bette Davis first signed with Warner Brothers, the executives at Warner’s had no idea what to do with her.  Bette said of her early days at Warner’s, “I was known as the little brown wren.  Who’d want to get me at the end of the picture?” They bleached her hair and tried forcing her into the mold of a glamour girl, which Bette absolutely despised.  She wanted to act, not just look pretty and she fought against the studio to be able to do that.Bette Davis

But in 1934, Bette finally found her niche when she gladly took on a role few other actresses would dare to touch — the completely unsympathetic Mildred in Of Human Bondage.  The total lack of vanity Bette showed in Of Human Bondage was a revelation and marked the first of many times Bette would choose realism over glamour.  For 1939′s The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Bette removed her eyebrows and shaved her hairline back two inches.  While making Marked Woman in 1937, Bette stormed off the set when the studio make-up department gave her a few measly bandages to wear after her character was severely beaten.  She went to her own doctor to be bandaged more realistically and refused to shoot the scene any other way.  And then there was Baby Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, a role that only could have been played by someone willing to put aside every last shred of vanity.

3.  She knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to fight for it.

Bette Davis

Bette Davis was notoriously difficult to work with.  But did Bette care?  Nope!  When someone said Bette was once known for being difficult, Bette declared, “At one time?! I’ve been known as difficult for fifty years practically! What do you mean ‘at one time?!’ No, I’ve been difficult for fifty years. And it’s always to make it the best film I can make it!”

In 1936, Bette was fed up with being given sub-par scripts and so-so directors at Warner Brothers and decided to go to court over it.  She intentionally broke her contract and went to England, where a trial was held over stipulations of her contract Bette felt were unfair.   Of the trial, Bette said, “I knew that if I continued to appear in any more mediocre pictures, I would have no career left worth fighting for.”  Bette lost the trial, but she still made her point — the quality of her movies improved after that.  Olivia de Havilland later went to court over some of the same things Bette did and won her case.

4. I respect her work ethic and ambition.

Bette Davis On Set

During her life, Bette commented that she when she died, they were going to write “She did it the hard way” on her gravestone.  That phrase is, indeed, written on her gravestone and it is the most accurate thing that could be written on it.  Bette absolutely thrived on working hard.  She lived by the words, “Attempt the impossible to improve your work.”  On the subject of working, Bette also said…

  • “It has been my experience that one cannot, in any shape or form, depend on human relations for lasting reward. It is only work that truly satisfies.”
  • “My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.”
  • “I will not retire while I’ve still got my legs and my make-up box.”

5.  She always had something witty to say.

Interviews with Bette Davis are often just as entertaining as her films because she was such a witty woman.  I can’t help but love anyone who says, “That’s me, an old kazoo with some sparklers.”

Bette Davis SUTS Blogathon Banner

Don’t miss the 2013 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Jill of Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence and Michael of Scribe Hard on Film! Lots of great posts are being contributed every day this month, so be sure to check back often!

Dynamic Duos: Greta Garbo and John Gilbert

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in Flesh and the DevilIn 1926, Greta Garbo was just a Hollywood newcomer.  She had signed with MGM and made two movies for them, audiences were liking her, but the studio didn’t quite know what to do with her.  They just couldn’t pin-point her type. She wasn’t a “sweetheart” type like Mary Pickford, she wasn’t a flapper like Colleen Moore or Clara Bow, so MGM tried to turn her into a vamp.  But Garbo was already getting bored with the vamp roles so she was less than thrilled at being cast as Felicitas in Flesh and the Devil, another vamp role.  Not only did the role not interest her, she was tired after having completed The Temptress and desperately wanted to go home to Sweden after her sister’s death and MGM refused to let her.

Little did Garbo know she was about to meet her perfect leading man in Flesh and the Devil.

While Garbo was still a new name to movie audiences in 1926, John Gilbert most certainly was not.  John Gilbert had been working in films for over a decade by then and his starring roles in prestige pictures like The Big ParadeThe Merry Widow, and He Who Gets Slapped made him one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.  Like Garbo, he wasn’t particularly wild about his part in Flesh and the Devil, but the idea of working with this new star intrigued him.

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in Flesh and the DevilThe first scene of Flesh and the Devil Greta Garbo and John Gilbert filmed together was the scene at the train station where their characters meet.  The immense chemistry between the two of them was obvious to everybody on set.  There was no denying there was a very real connection with them and as their scenes got more passionate, they had no problem keeping their performances up.  Clarence Brown, the movie’s director, said of them:

“It was the damnedest thing you ever saw. It was the sort of thing Elinor Glyn used to write about. When they got into that first love scene…nobody else was even there. Those two were alone in a world of their own. It seemed like an intrusion to yell “Cut!” I used to just motion the crew over to another part of the set and let them finish what they were doing. It was embarrassing.”

Before the release of Flesh and the Devil, the Garbo-Gilbert love affair had been getting buzz in the fan magazines, but nothing could have prepared movie goers for the unbridled passion they would actually see when the movie hit theaters in January of 1927.  It was a sensation, completely unlike anything audiences had ever seen at the time.  The New York Herald-Tribune said of it:

“Never before has John Gilbert been so intense in his portrayal of a man in love.  Never before has a woman so alluring, with a seductive grace that is far more potent than mere beauty, appeared on the screen. Greta Garbo is the epitome of pulchritude, the personification of passion. Frankly, we have never in our career seen a seduction scene so perfectly done.”

Suddenly, MGM had a big hit on their hands and they finally knew exactly what to do with Garbo — put her in more movies with John Gilbert.  Her next project was to be an adaptation of Anna Karenina with Ricardo Cortez as her co-star, but Irving Thalberg decided to replace Cortez with Gilbert and change the title to Love, so the theater marquees could read, “Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in Love.”  The couple also starred in A Woman of Affairs in 1928.

The romance between Garbo and Gilbert was just as potent off-screen as it was on-screen.  Shortly after finishing filming on Flesh and the Devil, Garbo moved into Gilbert’s house and he spent thousands of dollars on renovations to make it more to her liking.  He even built a small cabin for her, surrounded by Swedish pine trees and an artificial waterfall, on his property to remind her of home.

Not only was there a romantic connection between Garbo and Gilbert, he was able to offer valuable career advice.  He helped her become a better actress, taught her how to be more sociable off-set, taught her how to get what she wanted at MGM and she even started working with his agent.  Garbo later told journalist Åke Sundborg:

“I don’t know how I should have managed if I had not been cast opposite John Gilbert…Through him I seemed to establish my first real contact with the strange American world.  If he had not come into my life at this time, I should probably have come home to Sweden at once, my American career over.”

However, their relationship was not meant to last.  Gilbert kept pushing marriage and Garbo simply wasn’t interested.  After making several proposals, the idea of Garbo and Gilbert getting married at the same time as director King Vidor and actress Eleanor Boardman came up and Garbo said yes to it.  But on the day of the wedding, Garbo left Gilbert standing at the altar.  Gilbert was understandably angry, but the relationship managed to carry on for a bit longer.

By 1929,  Gilbert was still longing to get married and Garbo still wasn’t interested. That was the final straw for Gilbert, who impulsively got engaged to actress Ina Claire instead and married her on May 9, 1929.  The day before the wedding, Garbo made a tear-filled phone call to Harry Edington, who was to be Gilbert’s best man, begging him to put a stop to the wedding.  He told her that she was the only one who could stop it, but not wanting to cause a scandal, she chose not to.

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert in Queen ChristinaThe couple reunited on screen one last time in 1933′s Queen Christina.  By then, the tables had turned.  Garbo was still one of MGM’s most bankable stars, but Gilbert had fallen on very hard times.  His career had gone downhill, he was depressed, and had become a very heavy drinker, but Garbo insisted that he be cast opposite her in Queen Christina. The chemistry between them was as good as it ever was and the movie was a hit, but it wasn’t enough to revive Gilbert’s career.

Queen Christina was the last hit movie for John Gilbert and he made only one more movie after it, 1934′s The Captain Hates the Sea, before dying at the age of 38 in 1936.  Garbo continued to act until 1941, but never had another co-star who even came close to matching the chemistry she had with John Gilbert.

Dynamic Duos Blogathon

John Gilbert and Greta Garbo are just one of many unforgettable duos being highlighted this weekend in the Dynamic Duos blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen and Classic Film Hub.

Living in the Shadow of Baby Peggy

Baby Peggy FlowersBaby Peggy began her career in film at an age when most of her peers were more concerned with learning their shapes and colors.  She was a full-fledged movie star by the age of 5, ranking alongside the likes of Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino in terms of box-office appeal. Baby Peggy was making over a million dollars a year, earning her the nickname of the “Million Dollar Baby.”  And then her career ended just as suddenly as it started. By the time she was 8 years old, she was already a “has-been” in the movie world and she was left to spend the rest of her life struggling to come to terms with life in the shadow of her Baby Peggy persona.

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Fashion in Film Blogathon Wrap-Up

Grace Kelly

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part in the Fashion in Film Blogathon!  Over two days, nineteen bloggers contributed some excellent and very insightful posts.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading every single one of your posts and I’ve learned a lot from you all this weekend.  Thank you so much for taking the time to write such excellent posts.  Hopefully we can do it again next year!

Fashion in Film Blogathon: Day 2

Walter Plunkett Scarlett Sketch

Kellee from Outspoken and Freckled takes a look at the costumes of two of her favorite 1950s movies, Rear Window and Pillow Talk.

Marlene Dietrich’s costumes never failed to make a splash on screen, but her wardrobe in Shanghai Express is truly unforgettable.  Head on over to The Lady Eve’s Reel Life to learn about Travis Banton and how he collaborated with Dietrich to create such memorable styles.

Speaking of Marlene Dietrich, The Best of Alexandra examines the costumes of one of my personal favorite movies, Witness For the Prosecution.

Lana Turner was another woman who never failed to turn heads.  Jessica from Comet Over Hollywood tells us about Lana’s personal style and how she loved to have fun with fashion.

Bad girls also get to have a lot of fun with their wardrobes. The Nitrate Diva examines the clothes worn by some of cinema’s greatest femme fatales.

By 1967, the “Old Hollywood” system was dead and a new crop of filmmakers were coming in to shake up the system. Many of those “New Hollywood” filmmakers made movies set in the “Old Hollywood” era, and Carley of The Kitty Packard Pictorial is here to highlight some 1960s/70s-does-1930s styles.

Film Flare shines the spotlight on one of my favorite fashionable films, Federico Fellini’s .

Fashion in Film Blogathon: Day 1

Helen Rose Designing Woman

A great hat can really make a statement and nobody understood that more than Lilly Daché. Lily’s hats graced the heads of everyone from Marion Davies to Carmen Miranda.  Kay from Movie Star Makeover is here to kick off the blogathon  by telling us a bit about the legendary hat designer to the stars.

Sometimes, all you need to stand out on screen is a nice slip.  Head on over to A Person in the Dark to take a look at some of cinema’s greatest slips.

Inspired Ground takes to Polyvore to create looks inspired by Audrey Hepburn, My Week With Marilyn, and Midnight in Paris.

Valley of the Dolls may have been one campy movie, but it did have some pretty fabulous costuming.  The Gal Herself offers up some musings on Travilla’s work on this cult classic.

Louise Brooks was truly an icon of 1920s fashion, but her influence has extended far beyond the 20s.  Kimberly from GlamAmor takes a look at Brooks’ most famous film, Pandora’s Box, and how it continues to set trends today.

I Luv Cinema shares some of her favorite film costumes, ranging from ones worn by Audrey Hepburn to Kiera Knightley.

Silver Screenings pays tribute to Lina Lamont and her lavish Walter Plunkett wardrobe.

It’s hard to talk about fashion and film and not talk about Marilyn Monroe and Travilla, the man responsible for some of her most iconic costumes.  Dawn from Noir and Chick Flicks tells us about the story behind the infamous white halter dress from The Seven Year Itch.

Java’s Journey showcases Helen Rose’s work in The Tender Trap.

Caftan Woman ventures over to the dark side with a look at the costumes of the film noir classic Born to Kill.

Fashions of 1934 may not be one of the all-time great movies, but it is interesting for a number of reasons and Critica Retro tells us why.

When it comes to fashion, women don’t get to have all the fun.  Christian from Silver Screen Modiste spotlights some of the most stylish men to grace the silver screen.

Fashion in Film Blogathon Update

Travilla and MarilynWe’re just a couple of days away from the big Fashion in Film Blogathon!  Are you ready?

If you’re participating, here’s how it’s going to work:  On Friday and Saturday, a post will go live at about 9:00 AM Eastern for that day’s contributions.  Just leave a comment with your link on that day’s post or e-mail it to me at HollywoodRevue AT gmail DOT com.  Since Easter is coming up on Sunday, I know some of you might be busy this weekend.  So if your post is ready before Friday, you can just e-mail your link to me or comment on this post and I’ll make sure it’s included in the post when it goes live.

So far, twenty-three amazing bloggers have signed up to participate and I think it’s safe to say we’re in for one majorly stylish blogathon!  If you’d still like to participate, it’s not too late to join.  Just let me know and I’ll add you to the list.