Fun Stuff

Blogging Under the Stars 2015

Site News, Movie Memorabilia, and a Liebster!

Hey everyone! Sorry for being a rather infrequent blogger lately. Let’s take some time to catch up with a few fun things. I promise, things are going to be a lot less idle here in the near future.

First of all, it’s almost August and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know what that means — it’s almost time for this year’s round of Blogging Under the Stars! If you aren’t familiar with Blogging Under the Stars, here’s how it works: every August 2-September 1, I watch and review a movie that airs as part of TCM’s Summer Under the Stars, preferably something I’ve never seen before, although that’s not always possible. My intent of doing this is to encourage myself to watch some movies I otherwise might not have watched and watch some films from actors I’m not so familiar with. I’ve done this for the past few years and every year I’ve discovered some really great movies, so it’s a lot of fun for me.

Now, on to some more fun things…

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The Pink Panther, Silent Films, and Me

Pink Panther Title Card

Like so very many people, I spent a good amount of my childhood watching cartoons.  I remember being fond of Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker, but my favorite was definitely the Pink Panther.  Oh, did I ever love the Pink Panther!  In my book, he was the funniest of the cartoon characters I watched and I loved that aura of coolness he had.  And perhaps I’ve always had a soft spot for the stylish animation and Henry Mancini music.

But as I got a bit older and the cartoons were being shown on television less frequently, I ended up taking a break from my old friend the Pink Panther.  I didn’t re-discover the Pink Panther until just a few years ago when I bought a DVD collection of Pink Panther cartoons.  When I started watching them, my first reaction was, “Oh, it’s wonderful to be seeing these again!” My second reaction was, “Wow, no wonder I grew up to be a big silent film fan!”

Even though I’d been a silent film fan for years by that point, it had never occurred to me that all those Pink Panther cartoons I watched as a kid may have helped lay the foundation for me to appreciate silent film comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.  But in hindsight, it makes perfect sense.  Although the Pink Panther speaks in a couple of cartoons and some cartoons feature narration, most Pink Panther cartoons are short silent films very similar to the short films Chaplin and Keaton made early in their careers.

Several Pink Panther cartoons like The Pink Phink and Pink Pajamas feature scenarios I can easily imagine Chaplin or Keaton having a lot of fun with.  We Give Pink Stamps in particular is Chaplin-esque to the extent that I would love to know what, if any, thoughts Chaplin had about it.  One setting Chaplin saw a lot of comedy potential in was department stores, which he put to great use in 1916’s The Floorwalker and 1936’s Modern Times.  Not only is We Give Pink Stamps done in the same spirit as those Chaplin films, it also has some jokes that I’m sure Chaplin would have loved to do himself if only they weren’t impossible for a human being to do, even with special effect trickery available at the time.

A popular topic amongst classic movie fans is which movies do you show to somebody to get them interested classic movies.  Silent movies are always tricky because so many people are married to the idea that silent movies are the most dull, creaky, strange, and antiquated movies you can possibly watch.  But if you’re looking to turn someone on to silent films, particularly children, why not start with some Pink Panther cartoons?  Their stylish mid-century look really disguises the fact that they are basically silent films and might be a good way to lead in to some Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd.

Congratulations to True Classics on four years of blogging!

Congratulations to True Classics on four years of blogging!

The Ghosts of Old Hollywood

Betty Grable Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Halloween just wouldn’t be complete without a few ghost stories, right?  So for the sake of getting into the Halloween spirit, here are a few ghost stories featuring some familiar characters.  If these stories are to be believed, if you’re in the right place at the right time, you might still have the chance to encounter some of Hollywood’s most legendary stars.
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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.

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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.”

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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!

The Dark Side of the Rainbow

DSOTR

One of the most pervasive rumors about The Wizard of Oz is that if you play Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album while watching the movie, the music synchronizes with the action of the film.  Members of Pink Floyd have always insisted that any connections between Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz are purely coincidental, but that hasn’t stopped the rumor from gaining momentum.  In fact, it’s become so widely-known, Turner Classic Movies has played Dark Side of the Moon on their SAP track during past broadcasts of the movie.

Since The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies and Dark Side of the Moon is one of my favorite albums, I couldn’t resist trying this out for myself.

Dark Side of the Moon is only about forty minutes long, so you’ll have to listen to the album about two and a half times to make it through the whole movie. The most noteworthy synchronizations happen during the first time the album plays:

  • The line, “Balanced on the biggest wave,” from the song “Breathe” is sung as Dorothy is balancing on a fence.
  • The tone of “The Great Gig in the Sky” fits well with the tornado scene.
  • Munchkins appear to dance in time to the song “Money.”
  • Glinda’s exit coincides with the line, “…and out,” from “Us and Them.”
  • The heartbeat at the end of the album is heard as Dorothy knocks on the Tin Man’s chest, listening for a heartbeat.

There are some other less specific syncs, too. The song “Time” plays as Dorothy sees Professor Marvel’s wagon with “Past, Present, and Future” painted on the side and the part when the Scarecrow sings “If I Only Had a Brain” comes up during the song “Brain Damage.”

The second and third play-throughs aren’t as interesting, but there are some notable moments like:

  • “All you destroy,” from “Eclipse” being sung as the Wicked Witch smashes her hourglass.
  • The line, “Waiting for someone or something to show you the way,” from the song “Time” comes up as Glinda comes to tell Dorothy how to get back home.
  • “The time has gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say,” from “Time” and “Home, home again,” from the reprise of “Breathe” match up with the Oz scenes ending and Dorothy waking up at home again.

Note: A far more comprehensive list of alleged synchronizations can be found here.

I’ll admit that watching The Wizard of Oz this way had some pretty interesting moments, but on the whole, it was kind of overrated. The parts that were good were definitely outnumbered by the moments that weren’t very remarkable. But then again, I wasn’t under the influence of any mind-altering substances when I tried this.

If you’d like to check out the Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon phenomenon for yourself, all you have to do is get a CD of Dark Side of the Moon or make an MP3 playlist of the album, make sure its set to repeat, and start playing the movie. Don’t start playing the album immediately after starting the movie.  There are several theories about exactly when you should start playing the album. Some people start it after the third roar of the MGM lion, others prefer it after the second lion roar.  Or, if you’re having a hard time getting it to work either way, you might be able to find pre-synchronized versions on YouTube.