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Entries in Oscars (30s) (38)

Wednesday
May202015

The Many Cinematic Lives of Anne Boleyn

479 years ago on May 19th the second and most famous of Henry VIII's six wives, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded. But almost 5 centuries after her death, her life continues to fascinate storytellers. It seems that every couple of years there's a new interpretation of the events that conspired in England all those years ago. The latest version of King Henry and his many wives is Hilary Mantel's award-winning books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Both books have already been adapted to a miniseries that just aired on PBS over the past month and is currently playing on Broadway in a production that originally was staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and played the West End (and recently received 8 Tony nominations including Best New Play). And while Mantel's books and the subsequent adaptations of her work focus on the events from Thomas Cromwell's point of view, there's no doubt that the reason we're still telling this tale is because of that woman that inspired a king to leave his wife and create an entirely new religion just to be with her: Anne Boleyn. (Even the Broadway production's marketing puts Lydia Leonard in her Tony-nominated performance as the one time queen front and center.)   

Inspired by the current influx of entertainment based on Boleyn and her exploits at court, for the anniversary of her infamous death, let's take a look at three famous actresses that have played Boleyn over the years... 

The Private Lives of Henry VIII (1933)

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Tuesday
Dec302014

Luise Rainer (1910-2014)

Luise Rainer, Oscar's first back-to-back Acting winner for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937) was, for the past handful of years, perhaps better known for outliving everyone than for her brief movie stardom. She was just two weeks shy of her 105th birthday when she passed away early this morning of pneumonia. She is survived by her daughter and two granddaughters.

She was recently name-checked not so flatteringly in the Hollywood bio Hitchcock (2012) but the actress, still very much alive at the time, could surely roll with it. The outspoken import lived through tumultuous times, beginning her acting career on the German stage and screen before fleeing as Hitler consolidated power (she was Jewish) and then being sold to the American public as "The Viennesse Teardrop" because German wouldn't do back then. She quickly becoming a star while briefly marrying (unhappily) the playwright Cliff Odets who had several tumultuous affairs with famous actresses (as portrayed in Frances, 1982).

The outspoken diva was very vocal about what she thought of Hollywood, her unsatisfying career, and "The Oscar Curse" which she doesn't believe in though she admits that the back-to-back Oscars weren't at all helpful. The adulation prompted Hollywood to just throw her into anything, with no worries of miscasting or her own creative satisfaction.

Her career ended as swiftly as it began as she fought with the powers that be for more choice in her films. Soon she left Hollywood for New York and then London where she settled for good. 

I had a seven-year contract that I broke and went away. I was a machine, practically, a tool in a big, big factory, and I could not do anything. I wanted to film Madame Curie, but Mayer forbade me. I wanted to do For Whom the Bell Tolls, but Selznick took Ingrid Bergman and brought her to Hemingway and I didn't know Hemingway. And so I left. I just went away. I fled; yes, I fled."

She flew away to, by all reports, a happier life outside the spotlight. Her remarkable longevity and semi-regular all smiles appearances over the years suggests that she enjoyed it. 

Monday
Nov032014

The Honoraries: Maureen O'Hara in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

In "The Honoraries" we're looking at the careers of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients (O'Hara, Miyazaki, Carriere) and the Jean Hersholt winner (Belafonte). Here's Nathaniel...

Sanctuary ! Sanctuary !

You often feel like you've seen the classics, even if you haven't. Victor Hugo published "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" 183 years ago and like most enduring classics, including Hugo's other culturally imposing masterwork "Les Miserables,"  it feels familiar even if you have no first-hand experiences with it. Hunchback, like Les Miz, has been adapted several times but has actually been musicalized more often. I regret to inform that I had never seen the 1939 RKO version starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara until now so the Disney version was my only true cinematic reference point, at first forcing comparisons where I didn't want to see anyway.

The easiest comparison to shake off was Esmeralda, since Maureen O'Hara's fresh faced  breakthrough slipping through crowds and dancing in circles with her tambourine, beats Disney's Gypsy princess voiced by Demi Moore instantaneously. [More...]

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Thursday
Oct092014

Stage Door: "You Can't Take It With You" & "From Here To Eternity"

The Best Picture winners of 1938 and 1953, which were based on hit plays and best selling novels respectively, have moved to the stage. Let's take a look...

Annaleigh Ashford dances up a comic storm in "You Can't Take It With You"

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU
For this Broadway revival of the classic 30s comedy, famously moviefied by Frank Capra back in the day, they've gone all star: James Earl Jones plays the tax-avoiding follow-your-dreams grandfather, Broadway vet and A+ comic actress Christine Nielsen (recently Tony nominated for Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike) is the easily distracted mother of a large brood, Rose Byrne her gorgeous daughter (essentially the 'Marilyn Munster' of this band of eccentrics), Fran Krantz from Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods her rich would-be fiancee and Annaleigh Ashford, who has been on such a brilliant role these past couple of years with her ex-hooker lesbian receptionist on Masters of Sex and as a factory girl in Broadway's Kinky Boots, is the dance-crazed busybody.

If you've boned up on your 1930s Best Picture winners you'll know that those are the roles once inhabited by Lionel Barrymore, Spring Byington (Oscar-nominated), Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart and Ann Miller; tough acts to follow all.

As it turns out the theatrical and farcical antics of this family play better on stage...

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Thursday
Sep182014

"If she thought anybody would take after her..."

..she'd walk down the street naked."

[continues sewing...]

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Wednesday
Aug272014

Gone With The Wind's Glorious Ensemble

Entr'acte After last week's screening of the first half of the gargantuan Gone With the Wind. I realized that three fourths of my memories of the movie come from its first half. What would this screening of Act 2 reveal? We return now to wind-swept Georgia and the tale of the most famous of southern belles, Scarlett O'Hara.

Scarlett summed up: Surrounded in Rhett's wealth and love (the future) but still focused on her self and past girlish ideals (Ashley Wilkes in her hand). Perpetually vain and unhappy.

Part 2 The first act of GWTW is, largely, a Civil War film albeit one that's told brilliantly off the battlefield. The second act shifts gears to Reconstruction. While the South is being rebuilt, Scarlett is doing her own life remodelling. It's now a romantic melodrama, but pleasantly also a rich ensemble film as each character comes into sharper focus (Hattie McDaniel's Mammy and Olivia de Havilland's Melanie in particular - both superb)

Ashley Wilkes, simpleton that he is, still doesn't get Scarlett, assessing her strength like so: 

You never have trouble facing reality."

Oh, Ashley! Our semi-delusional Southern Belle is still continually fantasizing about you, a man she can't have and wouldn't want if she had him, while denying her love for the one she has and does actually want... in her own way. All the way she's hoping to recapture or clinging to her obsession of former glories of the Old South: Tara with its lush lands and easy wealth, the cheap labor force (ahem), and even her girlish waistline which alarming grows to a (GASP!) 20" and she cannot figure why. 'Childbirth? Fiddle-dee-dee!'

If Ashley Wilkes, who idolizes Scarlett, were choosing Part 2's Best Shot, I know just what he'd choose.

Click to read more ...