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Entries in Old Hollywood (102)

Sunday
Mar292015

Shirley MacLaine talks "The Apartment" at TCMFF

Anne Marie here in Hollywood, reporting the way it crumbles. TCMFF-wise, that is.

Shirley MacLaine knows how to command a room. TCM Classic Film Festival honored the Oscar winner's 6 decade career with a screening of The Apartment last night, but when MacLaine  made her entrance to a standing ovation at the TCL Chinese stage, it was clear that the honor was all ours. Dressed in red & black sequins (reminiscent of Doris Mann), MacLaine sparkled with charm. But it's not just her incredible charisma. When a sound glitch caused feedback, she turned with a mischievous gleam in her eye and called out,

"Whoever's in charge of that: Fix it!"


Much of that no-nonsense professionalism Shirley MacLaine attributed to her friend, legendary director of The Apartment, Billy Wilder...

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Saturday
Mar282015

Christopher Plummer Honored

Anne Marie providing your concrete connection to TCM Classic Film Fest.

Besides the Oscars, there may be no symbol more Hollywood than the handprints outside the TCL Chinese Theater. As legend goes, Norma Talmadge walked through wet cement while theater entrepreneur Sid Grauman was finishing construction on the Chinese Theater, and the accident gave the showman a rock-solid idea. Whatever the tradition's origin, ever since the Chinese Theater opened in 1927, thousands of starstruck tourists and Hollywood hopefuls have made their way to the theater's courtyard, where they can marvel at the timeworn hand-and-footprints of everyone from Bette Davis to Tom Hanks to the cast of Harry Potter.

Yesterday morning, Christopher Plummer joined the ranks of cemented cinema stars. [more]

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Thursday
Mar262015

TCM Classic Film Festival Starts Today!

Greetings and salutations, cinephiles! Anne Marie here, reporting from sunny (and hot) Hollywood, CA as the 6th annual TCM Classic Film Festival kicks off. For the next four days, I'll be reporting what's new (and old) at Hollywood's largest festival devoted entirely to celebrating the classics. 

This year, the theme of the festival is "History According To Hollywood". Films range in period and subject from the French Revolution (Reign of Terror), to the American West (My Darling Clementine), to the Civil Rights Movement (Malcom X), and the Apollo missions (Apollo 13), with historians and even an astronaut onhand to lend perspective. Of course, it wouldn't be TCM if they didn't roll out the red carpet for icons of a bygone era of the silver screen: Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, and Ann Margaret will discuss their films before special screenings. And tonight, the entire festival kicks off with the 50th Anniversary of The Sound Of Music, with Dame Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in attendance.

However, the TCM Film Festival has courted some controversy this year for exactly the wide range of films that they are celebrating.

After the festival schedule was announced, TCM fans took to social media to denounce it as "too new" and "lacking true classic film." Adding to the controversy was the decision to screen many films digitally, instead of on film. Sides were taken, articles were written (the best explanation is courtesy of The Black Maria), and all of it seems to boil down to one question:

How do you define a classic?

 

Is a Classic film defined by age? Quality? Time and place of origin? By expanding this definition to include films that are only 20 years old, are we adding diversity or devaluing already great work? Film is, comparatively speaking, a very new artform; only a little over 100 years old. It's been regarded as "legitimate" art for less than half of that. Considering that movies are still new and ever-changing, maybe we should focus less on labels and more on celebrating what's been accomplished in a century.

Today, dear TFE readers, you get to choose what you think is a classic. Below are five films being shown at TCMFF. On top of the daily updates, I will go to whichever of these five you choose, and report back on it during the Monday wrap up. So, I'll ask again: how do you define a classic?

What Should Anne Marie See at TCMFF?
THE CHILDREN'S HOUR (1961) w/ Shirley MacLaine0%
LENNY (1974) w/ Alec Baldwin, Dustin Hoffman0%
42ND STREET (1933) w/ Christine Ebersole0%
MALCOLM X (1992) w/ Spike Lee0%
MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) w/ Keith Carradine, Peter Fonda0%

Thursday
Mar192015

Women's Pictures - Ida Lupino's The Bigamist

Joan Fontaine was married to Ida Lupino’s husband. That is both the plot of Ida Lupino’s melodrama The Bigamist and the truth of the two stars’ relationship in 1953. Of course, Lupino had already divorced her writing partner and co-producer Collier Young when he married Fontaine in 1952. All three remained friends, and Young maintained his professional relationship with Lupino, even writing The Bigamist for his ex-and-current wives to star in. Unfortunately for the gossip mongers, there’s very little drama in the behind-the-scenes story of The Bigamist, but that’s probably for the best, because the movie is practically drowning in drama.

The Bigamist is relatively straightforward story of how one man ends up with two wives. Though it preys on the possible unspoken fears of a stay-at-home wife – What if my husband sees another woman when he says he’s at work? What if his ‘business trips’ are to spend time with her?The Bigamist does not qualify as a Women’s Picture. On the contrary, it’s told from the polygamist protagonist’s point of view.

The story is related mostly in flashback as traveling salesman Harry Graham (Edmund O’Brien again) explains to an adoption agency worker (Edmund Gwenn, aka Santa Claus!) how he was trapped into two marriages by his middle class morality and sense of duty. Poor Harry loves his career woman wife, Eve (Fontaine), though she is distant, and communicates only over breakfast tables or telephones. He finds comfort with a waitress named Phyllis (Lupino), and decides to do the honorable thing when she discovers she’s in the family way. As the judge explains at the end (melodramas use courtrooms so a judge can tell the audience the moral of the film), Harry is not a bad man. Just a confused one.

(Side note: It’s possible that I’ve been watching too much Empire, but I spent all movie waiting for Ida and Joan's characters to discover each other’s existence and claw each other’s eyes out. I was disappointed.)

 Do bigamists have more fun? After the jump...

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Thursday
Mar122015

Women's Pictures - Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker

What a difference four years make! Well, four years and three movies. The disadvantage of having only a single month to cover a director’s entire body of work is that we have to cherry pick individual films representative of overall trends. So, even though Ida Lupino spent the period between 1949 and 1953 directing three (and a half) films which would fall under the category of women’s pictures that we advocated for so strongly last week, we now have to skip forward to the next moment in her career: film noir. However, while Lupino stopped making films featuring exclusively female protagonists, she maintained her commitment to mixing truth and drama in her stylish thriller, The Hitch-Hiker.

The film opens with a title card to inform the viewer that The Hitch-Hiker is “...the true story of a man and a gun and a car.” Surprisingly, despite the Motion Picture Production Code’s prohibition of true crime stories, The Hitch-Hiker actually is based on fact: in 1951, two hunters were kidnapped by killer Billy Cook. Cook forced the two men to drive him to Baja California, where he was recognized and apprehended by Mexican police. In order to tell this tale of survival and murder, Lupino circumvented the Production Code two ways: First, by changing just enough of the facts and names to give the story plausible deniability (and added drama). Second, by hiding violence in shadow and suggestion as only film noir can.

See how well film noir survives in the desert after the jump...

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Thursday
Mar052015

Women's Pictures - Ida Lupino's "Never Fear"

Women’s Pictures get a bad rap. I’m not talking about this series - we’ve only been going a month and you all seem as excited as I am about it - but rather the category of film after which this series is named. During the height of their popularity in the 1940s, women's films were denigratingly known as “weepies” or “soap operas.” When women’s pictures began to be recognized as a unique category of film, they were often defined by what they lacked: few to no male leads, stories that rarely took place in the public sphere, a lack of “action” plots, etc.

Rather than define women’s pictures by what they weren’t, instead focus on what they were: films made for, starring, and sometimes created by women, films from many different genres (including traditionally male genres like noir), films with a focus on domestic life and social issues, films that tackled everything from racism to unplanned pregnancies to polio. These were films designed to speak to the interests of American women, and it turned out that American women were interested in seeing their real struggles represented onscreen. When Warner Bros glamor girl Ida Lupino started her production company in 1948, that’s exactly what she intended to do.

Disease, drama, and smokin' doctors after the jump...

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Saturday
Feb282015

The New Oscar Actress Hierarchy - 33 Most Beloved Women

This is your daily reminder that Julianne Moore is now an Oscar winner!

 I thought it might be fun to revise the Oscar Acting Hierarchy which I did once very long ago, I believe in connection with the rapid rise of Kate Winslet through the ranks. 

What follows is a List of 33 34 All Time Favorite Actresses of Oscar... restricted to women with 5 or more nominations. Only the acting statistics are accounted for so Emma Thompson, for example, is not ranked. If you included her screenplay win or had she been nominated for Saving Mr Banks last year than she would have been on the list. If you counted non-acting nominations, you'd also see Shirley Maclaine jump a rank as she was nominated for documentary once. Now that virtually every major star is a producer these types of extra nominations stats are going to get progressively murkier in Oscar lists of the future so we're opting not to include them. 

How the ranks were determined. Number of nominations determines general placement. Once that's established wins are most important. In the event that someone has the same exact stats in nominations and wins, the tiebreaker factor in rank is that lead counts more than supporting. If the tie stubbornly remains the tie is broken by endurance (thus Vanessa Redgrave beats Kate Winslet though they have the exact same stats because her nominations are spread across 26 years instead of 13). Further mitigating factors: Three statues is so uncommon that it gives the actress a phantom extra nomination in terms of ranking (thus Ingrid Bergman trumps Geraldine Page). Honorary statues (Oscar or Jean Hersholt) give the actress a phantom extra boost with the same affect as an additional nomination and win (thus Liz Taylor jumps Jessica Lange)... unless she never won a competitive Oscar in which case it only counts as a phantom win or nomination (thus Kerr cannot pole vault up to do battle with Lange or Blanchett) which of those to be determined by the gatekeeper (yours truly). In the event that someone has multiple wins they may vault over the next immediate rivals if said rivals have never won a competitive Oscar and/or half or more of their nominations are in supporting (thus de Havilland trumps Glenn Close & Thelma Ritter despite having less nominations but can't displace Kate Winslet. This also accounts for two women with only 4 nominations entering the 5 nomination only "Most Beloved" ranks.) 

OSCAR'S HOLY TRINITY 
And Thirty More Royals 

after the jump

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