Greta Garbo

Anna Christie (1930)

Anna Christie 1930 PosterWhen shew was five years old, Anna Christie (Greta Garbo) was sent to live with family on a farm in Minnesota.  Fifteen years pass and her father Chris (George F. Marion) has hardly made an effort to stay in touch with her.  Life in Minnesota hasn’t been easy for Anna.  Her family was cruel to her, she was raped by her cousin and she worked as a prostitute.  It’s all left her exhausted and extremely distrustful of men.  Finally she decides to get away from it all and sends her father letting him know that she’s coming to visit.

Chris is a barge captain who spends all his free time drinking and hanging around Marthy (Marie Dressler).  When Anna and Chris are finally reunited, they spend time together on Chris’ barge and begin to rebuild their relationship.  Anna even starts to enjoy living on the barge.  One night, Chris rescues a few sailors in distress and one of them, Matt (Charles Bickford), falls in love with Anna.  For the first time in years, Anna is finally finding a little happiness in her life.  However, Matt doesn’t know about Anna’s sordid past. Not even Chris knows the full extent of her life in Minnesota.  But when they find out the truth, can they still love and accept Anna?

“Give me a whiskey, ginger ale on the side.  And don’t be stingy, baby!” With those fourteen words, Greta Garbo successfully transitioned from the silent film era to the talkie era.  Garbo’s talkie debut in Anna Christie came a bit later than those of most other silent film stars.  She was such an important asset to MGM that it would have been a tremendous loss for them if she didn’t survive the transition to talkies.  The advent of talkies dealt a death blow to the careers of many actors and actresses from other countries because their accents were undesirable and MGM didn’t want Garbo to be one of the casualties.  They kept her in silents as long as possible, holding out for just the right talkie project.  Anna Christie turned out to be the perfect project for Garbo because her role called for a Swedish accent.

Some viewers might find Anna Christie dull because it is a very static movie without a lot of different sets or camera movement.  It’s an adaptation of a stage play and it does feel like a filmed version of a play.  However, Anna Christie is one of my favorite Garbo talkies.  First and foremost, I like the story so I don’t mind the static feel of the movie.  I really like Garbo in it; it’s one of my favorites of her sound films.  Anna is a weary woman and is there anyone who played weary better than Garbo?  And who can forget the wonderful Marie Dressler?  As great as Garbo is, Marie Dressler gave her a run for her money.  Dressler doesn’t get a lot of screen time in Anna Christie, but she sure made the most of the screen time she got.  Her scene with Garbo when Anna first arrives at the bar is one of my favorite scenes of Garbo’s career.

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.

Fashion in Film: Berets

If you’re like me, you often find yourself watching films and seeing tons of fashion styles you would love to wear in real life.  I watch movies from so many decades and from so many different genres, if I actually did copy all the styles I like, I’d have one diverse wardrobe.  But if there’s one accessory you could easily get a lot of mileage out of, it’s a beret.  Berets have been a popular hat style for decades, so if you want to go for a Norma Shearer inspired look one day and a Faye Dunaway inspired look the next, a beret could easily work for both styles.

(more…)

1928-1929: Oscar’s Most Awkward Year

Mary Pickford Oscar

Mary Pickford with her Oscar.

As popular as the Academy Awards are, they can be a very controversial topic amongst movie lovers.  I think virtually every cinephile has their own list of movies that they think got robbed at the Oscars.  Some may even have their favorite and least favorite Academy Award years.  But one thing I think we can all agree on is that the nominees for the second Academy Award ceremony (covering 1928-1929) definitely weren’t the strongest group of movies ever nominated.

It’s not so much that 1928-1929 was a completely terrible year for movies, but the film industry had been turned completely upside down that year.  During the first Academy Award ceremony, The Jazz Singer was given an honorary award for revolutionizing the film industry.  By the following year, the impact of The Jazz Singer was undeniable.  The movies eligible for the 1928-1929 Oscars were part of the first wave of movies to come out in the wake of The Jazz Singer and the nominees that year are a better reflection of how in flux the industry was at the time than what the best movies really were.

Even though studios were scrambling to hop on the talkie bandwagon, the production of silent films didn’t come to an immediate halt.  Some truly excellent silent films were produced that year, but you’d never know it by looking at the list of nominees.  However, if some of those silent films had been nominated, that year would probably now be looked back upon more favorably.

(more…)

Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise (1931)

Born out of wedlock to a mother who died in childbirth, Helga (Greta Garbo) is left to be raised by her strict uncle Karl (Jean Hersholt). When Karl tries to force Helga into marrying Jeb Mondstrom (Alan Hale), she runs away in the middle of a thunderstorm.  She makes her way to a house where architect Rodney Spencer (Clark Gable) is staying.  Rodney invites her in, gives her something dry to wear, and lets her stay with him for the night.

The next day, Helga repays Rodney’s kindness by making breakfast for him before continuing to run away.  But Rodney really likes her and persuades her to stay with him.  They fall madly in love with each other, Rodney even proposes to her, but then Karl and Jeb track her down and she has to leave town immediately.  She hops the next train out, which happens to be a train full of circus performers. Madame Panoramia (Cecil Cunningham), the tattooed lady, sympathizes with Helga’s plight and helps her get a job with the circus as a dancer.

Helga changes her name to Susan Lenox and keeps in touch with Rodney, hoping to meet with him again. But when Karl and Jeb track her down, she has to start having an affair with the circus’ owner in exchange for helping her hide from them.  Eventually, Susan and Rodney are reunited, but their happiness is short lived. Rodney finds out about Susan and the circus owner, but he doesn’t understand why she’s done it and leaves her.

A heartbroken Rodney falls into a deep depression while Susan goes from man to man, eventually winding up as the girlfriend of Mike Kelly (Hale Hamilton),a prominent but crooked politician. When Mike and Susan throw a fancy dinner party, Susan makes a point of inviting Rodney for the sole purpose of degrading him in front of all her high society friends.  But in the end, it only makes her realize that she still loves him.  She travels from city to city looking for him, taking any job she can get along the way.  Eventually, she makes her way to South America where she meets up with Rodney again while singing in a bar.  At first, Rodney is too drunk to be open to reconciling the way she wants to. But when he sobers up the next day, he and Susan are finally able to put the past behind them once and for all.

If you like melodrama, you’re in luck because Susan Lenox has got melodrama to spare!  Considering this was an adaptation of a nearly six hundred page book by David Graham Phillips, it’s safe to say that the movie is an extremely condensed version of the story.  The movie could have benefited from a slower pace, but Garbo is fantastic in it.  Even though she and Gable didn’t get along off screen, they worked pretty well together on screen.

Susan Lenox also features some very beautiful, atmospheric cinematography.  Some of the scenes in the beginning of the movie look straight out of a German expressionist film. I’d say this is one of Garbo’s more underrated films.  It’s not in the same league as Queen Christina or Ninotchka, but it is still a pretty enjoyable movie.

What’s on TCM: September 2012

Happy September, everyone!  I hope you all enjoyed this year’s edition of Summer Under the Stars.  One good thing may be coming to an end, but fear not, there are some very, very cool things to look forward to in September.

Silent film fans, rejoice!  Every Thursday night this month, TCM will be spotlighting movies produced at Mack Sennett studios, which means there will be tons of silent films being played during prime time.  83 short films will be included in this tribute, the vast majority of which have never been shown in TCM before, and will feature stars  such as Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, and Gloria Swanson.  I, for one, am very excited for this!

Lauren Bacall is the Star of the Month and every Wednesday night in September will be full of her movies.  September 3rd will be TCM’s annual tribute to the Telluride Film Festival

(more…)

The Artist (2011)

In 1927, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is world famous as one of the biggest movie stars around.  After the premiere of his latest film, he steps outside to greet the crowd of adoring fans and ends up having a run-in with fan Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo).  Their encounter is photographed by the press and winds up being featured on the front page of Variety.  Peppy is more than a fan, she’s an aspiring actress who winds up getting hired as an extra at Kinograph, the studio where George works.  When George sees that Peppy is a talented dancer, he gets her a bit part in his new movie.  The two of them hit it off and Peppy quickly finds herself getting bigger and bigger parts.  But with the advent of sound films, George finds himself pressured to make talkies, a transition he does not want to make.  He leaves the studio to produce his own silent films, but finds that he can’t compete with the new talkie stars like Peppy Miller.  He loses everything, but with help from a friend, he finds the potential to reinvent himself to a new audience.

The Artist is easily my favorite movie of 2011.  Not that I saw many new releases this year, but anyway.  I loved everything about it — the acting, the cinematography, the story, the direction were all top notch.  I most often hear the plot of The Artist described as being like Singin’ in the Rain meets A Star is Born, and although that is a pretty good way to describe it, don’t think that it’s just a rehash.  It does have elements of both, but it stands well on its own and I had no problem judging it independently from those. It also isn’t just an endless parade of homages to other silent films, either.  Director Michel Hazanavicius clearly did his silent film homework, but very much made it his own.  In this article, Hazanavicius names six movies that inspired him to make The Artist, and I never would have guessed Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld or Lon Chaney’s The Unknown were among his influences for it.

Fans of silent films are bound to recognize characters and events in the movie as being inspired by real people and events.  The character of George Valentin was essentially John Gilbert but with Douglas Fairbanks’ on-screen image.  Although Gilbert didn’t hesitate to make the transition to sound the way Valentin does, his career did fall into a rapid decline after fighting with Louis B. Mayer and something similar happens to Valentin.  When Valentin wants to continue making silent films, he produces and finances one on his own, reminiscent of how Gilbert wrote 1932′s Downstairs for himself when he was tired of being given lousy movies.  Peppy Miller was definitely meant to be a Clara Bow, Colleen Moore type, but with a few moments of Greta Garbo thrown in.  Yes, at one point, Peppy even says, “I want to be alone.”  And when she wants to help George get work again, she demands that he be cast as her leading man, just like how Garbo got John Gilbert cast in Queen Christina.

Right now, it’s looking like The Artist is shaping up to be the top contender to win Best Picture at the Oscars.  But when a movie gets as much acclaim as The Artist currently is, sooner or later, there will be a backlash against it and I can tell you right now what some of its detractors will say.  If it does indeed win, there will be some who will say that it won just because being a silent film was such a novelty, it won for being a novelty.  And even if it doesn’t win, they’ll just say all the hype was because it was a novelty.  I can feel that argument is coming, so I’m just going to go ahead and comment on how absurd and condescending that idea is right now.

Speaking as somebody who routinely watches silent films, the idea of watching a movie without spoken dialogue isn’t a novelty to me, even if it is a modern movie.  I would have been just as eager to see this one even if it did have dialogue.  The concept of a modern silent film might be more of a selling point to others, but I highly doubt they’re going to like it purely because it’s a silent.  At no point in time have I ever liked a silent film just because it was silent and neither have any of the other silent film fans I know.  We’re not that easily amused, and that attitude reminds me of how NBC tried to capitalize on the success of Mad Men by green lighting The Playboy Club, thinking audiences would tune in just because it was set in the 1960′s, too.

I watch silent movies because I appreciate that method of storytelling, but there has to be a good story being told.  The Artist is much more than just a silent film; it also has a wonderful story, an excellent cast, strong direction, and beautiful cinematography and those are perfectly valid reasons for it to be getting the acclaim it is.  If the story isn’t your cup of tea, or even if you’re just not into silent movies, that’s just dandy, but to write it off as a novelty or a gimmick is completely ridiculous.

Mata Hari (1931)

In the midst of World War I, Chief Dubois (C. Henry Gordon) is hard at work seeing that traitors and spies are put to their deaths.  Lately, he’s been seeing a lot of men put in front of a firing squad for getting involved with Mata Hari (Greta Garbo), a spy who has been seducing important military officials to steal sensitive information from them.  Dubois wants to see to it that she is stopped.  Meanwhile, Russian Imperial Air Force Lieutenant Alexis Rosanoff (Ramon Novarro) has come to Paris to pick up some confidential documents he needs to deliver.  After he arrives, he is invited by General Shubin (Lionel Barrymore) to go see the infamous Mata Hari dance that night.

While Mata Hari dances, she wins over everybody in the room, but especially Alexis.  As soon as her performance is over, he is obsessed with meeting her.  Unbeknownst to him, Shubin has been carrying on an affair with Mata.  He knows that being caught with her would certainly mean his death, but he just can’t resist her charms.  After the show, Alexis waits for her outside the theater and does get to meet Mata.  Mata has had plenty of men in her life, but for the first time, she’s starting to feel something real for Alexis.  But when she finds out Alexis is the one with some documents she needs to steal, she has no other choice but to seduce him, too.  Mata’s feelings for Alexis pose a problem for her at work since her boss Andriani (Lewis Stone) very strongly believes that spies should never fall in love.  In fact, he feels so strongly about it that he even had one of Mata’s fellow spies killed after she fell in love.  Mata is ordered to carry on her relationship with Alexis but not get too attached to him.

Meanwhile, Dubois is still hot on Mata Hari’s trail and knows about Shubin’s relationship with her.  In an attempt to get Shubin to turn Mata in, he tells Shubin that she and Alexis have been having an affair, hoping that he would be so mad that he’d gladly give up all the information they need.  His plan works and Shubin confronts Mata, threatening to have her arrested.  Mata pulls out a gun and shoots him.  Andriani plans to send her to Amsterdam to avoid arrest, but before she leaves, she finds out that Alexis had been injured in a plane crash.  Andriani warns her not to go see him, but Mata isn’t willing to stay away and resigns from the spy ring.  But the only way to leave Andriani’s spy ring is by death.  Mata goes to the hospital to see Alexis and although she avoids Andriani’s hit man, she’s nabbed by the police, instead.  She pleads guilty and is set to be executed, but the last thing she wants is for Alexis to know what she has done.

I adore Greta Garbo, but Mata Hari isn’t one of my favorite movies of hers.  She’s good in it, but she’s been in movies with far better plots and Lionel Barrymore and Ramon Novarro have both given better performances in better movies.  The costumes are definitely interesting to look at.  They’re not the sort of things you look at and say, “Wow, I wish I had that in my closet!” but they’re fascinating because they are so completely over the top.  The way Adrian’s got her dressed, Mata Hari was the least inconspicuous spy of all time.  I’d say the best thing about Mata Hari is the cinematography, I liked what they did with shadows in several scenes.

Live Post: The Debbie Reynolds Auction

Even though I’m broke and can’t afford to actually bid on anything in today’s auction, there’s so much amazing stuff up for sale today that I can’t resist trying to follow the auction as best I can.  So I figured I’d try my hand at live blogging and cover the auction the best I can as it happens.  I’m not going to cover every single item up for sale, but I’ll try to keep you updated about some of the more noteworthy items.  So stay tuned, sit back, relax, and live vicariously through other people who can afford to spend insane amounts of money on movie memorabilia.  And I’m just putting it out there right now: I would not be even remotely surprised if Hugh Hefner buys Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch.  A million dollar absentee bid has already been placed on it, so it will definitely be sold for at least that much today.

If you want to follow along with the auction live, just go here, click on “Live Bidding”, then click the option to just watch the auction. There is a live video stream, but no audio.

Updates:

Note – The selling prices I list here don’t include the buyer’s premium.  If you see articles about Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz test costume selling for more than a million, that source factored in the buyer’s premium.

3:12 PM – The first lot, a 1915 35mm Bell and Howell camera just sold for $32,500!

3:16 PM – Rudolph Valentino’s matador suit from Blood and Sand just went for $210,000.

3:19 PM – Mary Pickford’s headpiece from Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall went for $3,250.

3: 21 PM- Francis X. Bushman’s charioteer helmet from 1925′s Ben Hur sold for $30,000!

3:26 PM – Harold Lloyd’s suit and hat went for $4,000!

3:34 PM – Mary Pickford’s gown from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $17,000.

3:36 PM – Lots 17 and 18, both Douglas Fairbanks costumes from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $20,000 and lot 18 didn’t sell.

3:38 PM – One of Charlie Chaplin’s infamous hats went for $110,000!

3:40 PM – A Model T used by Laurel and Hardy sold for $32,500 and a pair of their suits went for $16,000.

3:42 PM – Carole Lombard’s gown from No Man of Her Own sold for $11,000.

3:47 PM – Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra gown went for $40,000.

3:52 PM – Greta Garbo’s gown from Anna Karenina also sold for $40,000!

3:53 PM – Harpo Marx’s hat and wig went for $45,000!

4:10 PM – Lots 42, 43, and 44 are the paintings commissioned by Marion Davies and respectively went for $10,000, $11,000, and $17,000.  These really got the bidders going.

4:17  PM – W.C. Fields’ joke box sold for $35,000.

4:39 PM – Norma Shearer’s purple gown from Romeo and Juliet went for $20,000.

5:04 PM – Now we’re into stuff from The Good Earth and people went nuts for some of the furniture!  The pair of chairs went for $20,000, the opium bed for $20,000, two Paul Muni robes for $4,000 each, Luise Rainer’s shirt for $2,000, the lot of stands and other furniture for $3,500, and Luise Rainer’s jacket for $3,000.

5:13  PM – A gown worn by Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette and Lucille Ball in Du Barry was a Lady sold for $11,000.

5:44 PM – Oh, now we’re into a busy bunch of lots!  First up was Marlene Dietrich’s outfit from “The Boys in the Backroom” number in Destry Rides Again, which went for $8,000, one of Judy Garland’s test costumes from The Wizard of Oz went for $910,000, a test pair of the ruby slippers sold for $510,000, an extra’s jacket from the Emerald City scenes of the Wizard of Oz sold for $22,500, Clark Gable’s dressing robe from the production of Gone With the Wind went for $10,000, and Basil Rathbone’s famous Sherlock Holmes caped overcoat sold for $50,000!

5:54 PM – Vivien Leigh’s suit from Waterloo Bridge sold for $16,000.

6:09 PM – Gary Cooper’s military uniform from Sergeant York went for $55,000.

6:16 PM – A couple of costumes worn by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the satin jockey shirt went for $27,500 and the clown outfit sold for $15,000.

6:19 PM – Not so fast, Louis!  A suit worn by Claude Rains in Casablanca sold for $55,000!

6:53 PM – Took a dinner break and missed another busy bunch of lots!  Elizabeth Taylor’s riding outfit from National Velvet went for $60,000, Judy Garland’s “Under the Bamboo Tree” dress from Meet Me in St. Louis sold for $16,000, Judy’s dress from the snowman building scene in Meet Me in St. Louis went for $10,000, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra’s sailor suits from Anchors Aweigh went for $27,500 and $15,000 respectively.

7:00 PM – $22,500 for Joan Crawford’s waitress uniform from Mildred Pierce and $5,000 for Ann Blyth’s Mildred Pierce suit.

7:05 PM – Edmund Gwenn’s Santa suit from Miracle on 34th Street just sold for $22,500.

8:12 PM – The gold lame dress worn by Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway went for $8,000.

8:51 PM – The chiffon robe worn by Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire sold for $18,000.  Then it went into a bunch of items from An American in Paris with Leslie Caron’s peacock dress from the fantasy ballet number for $15,000, Nina Foch’s white halter gown from a party scene for $3,000, and a showgirl costume from the Stairway to Paradise number for $1,100.

9:05 PM – We have reached the Singin’ in the Rain part of the auction.  First were the green and white checked suits worn by Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly, $8,000 and $14,000 respectively.  Jean Hagen’s Marie Antoinette-esque dress sold for $5,500 and Gene Kelly’s period costume went for $9,000.  Debbie’s green and white leaf print dress went for $15,000, Gene Kelly’s jacket from the Broadway Melody Ballet number went for $6,500, Jean Hagen’s black and white fur coat went for $6,000, Donald O’Connor’s “Good Morning” suit didn’t sell, Cyd Charisse’s white Broadway Melody Ballet outfit for $7,000, and Debbie’s “Good Morning” dress went for $27,500.  A pink dress worn by Gwen Carter sold for $3,750, and a bunch of costumes from the “Beautiful Girl” montage brought $5,500.

9:22 PM – Now we’re getting into some of the Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn-related items.  First up is Marilyn’s red “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which brought $1.2 million!  Then came the feathered hat worn by Jane Russell when she impersonates Loreli Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that sold for $4,250.  Lauren Bacall’s wedding dress from How to Marry a Millionaire went for $8,000 and the car used by Marilyn and Cary Grant in Monkey Business sold for $210,000.

9:48 PM – A lot of two safari outfits worn by Grace Kelly in Mogambo sold for $47,500.  A Winchester rifle used by Clark Gable in Mogambo brought in $15,000.

10:00 PM – A couple more from Marilyn Monroe.  The gold dress from River of No Return went for $510,000 and her costume from the “Heat Wave” number in There’s No Business Like Show Business brought in $500,000!

10:52 PM – After a little break, we’re back with the dress everyone’s been waiting for — the infamous Marilyn Monroe white subway dress from The Seven Year Itch.  I fully expected bidding to be out of control for this one and I wasn’t disappointed.  It brought in an astonishing $4.6 million!

11:03 PM – Now we’ve got a couple from To Catch a Thief.  A coat worn by Cary Grant brought in $15,000 and an outfit worn by Grace Kelly earned a jaw dropping $450,000!

11:41 PM – A couple of dresses worn by Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember brought in $6,000 and $11,000.

12:17 AM – One of Lana Turner’s dresses from Peyton Place sold for $4,250.

12:22 AM – Lot number 407 is rather unique because it includes things worn by both Kim Novak and Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey.  It went for $6,500.

12:29 AM – Leslie Caron’s iconic plaid schoolgirl outfit from Gigi went for $65,000.

12:40 AM – Charlton Heston’s tunic and cape from Ben Hur could have been yours for the low, low price of $320,000!

1:32 AM – Marlon Brando’s naval outfit from Mutiny on the Bounty just brought in $90,000!

2:12 AM – Elizabeth Taylor’s famous headdress from Cleopatra went for $100,000 and Richard Burton’s tunic, cape, and sword brought in $85,000.

Oh, who cares what time it is anymore?  Yes, I’m still going!  Aren’t these people tired and broke yet?!  Janet Leigh’s yellow fringed dress from Bye Bye Birdie fetched $3,750 and Bette Davis’ blood stained dress from Hush, Hush…Sweet Charlotte sold for $11,000.

Another big item to watch tonight was Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady.  I fully expected it to exceed the $200,000-$300,000 and it sure did.  It went up to $3.7 million!

I would say that the hills are alive with the sound of music, but at this time of night, I’m pretty sure that’s a noise ordinance violation.  Julie Andrews’ guitar went for $140,000, her jumper from the “Do Re Mi” number for $550,000, her turquoise and green dress for $45,000, the peasant dress went for $42,500, and a pair of the Trapp children’s outfits sold for $35,000.

And at long last we have reached the Barbara Streisand part of the auction.  First from Funny Girl is her costume from “I’d Rather Be Blue” for $65,000, a lot of the other roller skating costumes for $2,500, the black velvet dress from “My Man” for $16,000, a bunch of stuff worn by the Ziegfeld girls in the “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” number for $7,500, Anne Francis’ silk dress for $1,800, and Kay Medford’s beaded shawl for $1,400.

A jacket worn by Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid brought $8,500 and a dress worn by Katharine Ross went for $16,000.

And back to Streisand.  The purple Hello, Dolly dress went for $55,000 and the gold dress for $100,000.  Surprised the gold dress went for that little, that’s how much it cost to make that dress back in the day.

You’ll be fascinated to know that a shirt worn in the cinematic masterpiece known as Grease 2 sold for $475.

We have finally made it to the final segment of posters/portraits!  The title cards for Blind Husbands fetched $2,000, the lot of three Gloria Swanson title/lobby cards sold for $1,200, the portrait of Gloria Swanson went for $8,500, the lot of two Mabel Normand lobby cards for $800, the pair of silent title/lobby cards for $1,600, the lobby card for Lon Chaney’s The Penalty for $1,700, and the lobby card for Chaplin’s The Idle Class for $1,600.  The portrait of Jean Harlow went for $11,000!

Now it’s high time I called it a night!  Good night everybody!

Queen Christina (1933)

Who better to play a Swedish queen than the Swedish queen of cinema herself, Greta Garbo?  Christina is crowned Queen of Sweden at the ripe old age of five after her father is killed in battle.  As she grows up, she loves her country so much that she turns down romantic relationships so she can dedicate herself to being the best ruler she can be.  But sometimes, the pressures of being a ruler get to be too much for Christina and she likes to get away.  She dresses in men’s clothing and sneaks out-of-town.  While she’s out, she meets the Spanish envoy, Antonio (John Gilbert), who has gotten stuck in a snowdrift.  She helps him out and she runs into him again that night when they check into the same inn.  But since the inn is so crowded because of the snow, Antonio has to room with Christina.  He doesn’t realize that she’s really a woman until that night.  But when he finds out, he’s very attracted to her.

Christina and Antonio spend a few blissful days at the inn snowed in, but Antonio still doesn’t know that she’s the Queen.  He remains clueless until he arrives at the palace to present his embassy to the Queen.  When one of the Queen’s suitors realizes that Christina prefers Antonio to him, he tells the public that the Queen is in love with a Spaniard.  Everyone gets all riled up about it and Christina decides that she wants to be a regular person.  She wants to live life on her own terms and be free to love whomever she pleases.  She abdicates the throne and decides to go to Spain with Antonio.  Unfortunately, just before he was to leave for Spain, Antonio is fatally wounded in a duel and dies in Christina’s arms.

Queen Christina is one of the most unconventional women in the pre-code era.  First of all, there’s the fact that the real Queen Christina liked both men and women, that wasn’t something made up for the sake of having a more scandalous movie.  Even though she ultimately falls in love with John Gilbert’s character in the movie, we also see her kiss her lady in waiting.  Queen Christina was also famous for behaving in a very masculine way.  She preferred wearing pants and had no desire to get married or have children.  The real Queen Christina abdicated the throne to be able to be an openly practicing Catholic, though, not for love like in the movie.

Christina isn’t the only remarkably pre-code woman in the movie.  Christina’s lady in waiting, Ebba, also likes men and women and is having an affair with Christina as well as a man.  When Christina and Antonio are at the inn for the first night, Elsa helps them settle in and openly flirts with Christina.  When Antonio asks her if she’s a good girl, she replies, “Only when I don’t like someone.”  Such a true pre-code line!  Queen Christina is also one of the few movies I’ve ever seen where the idea of a woman having lots of lovers is actually celebrated.  When Christina and Antonio are at the inn, they witness a couple of guys get into a fight over whether the Queen has had six or nine lovers.  The guy who insisted it was nine thought it was insulting to suggest the Queen had a mere six lovers in one year.  When Christina declares that they’re both wrong, the correct answer is twelve, the whole bar erupts in cheers!

Queen Christina is one of my favorite Garbo talkies.  What made Garbo such a perfect actress for silent films is that she could say so much using only her face, words were completely unnecessary.  The great thing about Queen Christina is that she gets two exquisite, very famous scenes where all she does is emote.  We also get one last chance to see her work with her greatest co-star, John Gilbert.  Again, we see here that his voice and his acting were not the disaster that popular legend might lead you to expect.  Queen Christina took the best elements of Garbo’s silent films and reinvented them for sound.  Garbo and Gilbert still made a great team and Garbo never lost her ability to use her face to tell stories once she started making talkies.  None of the magic had been lost.