Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Milliners Invade Hollywood: Part One

I've been wanting to do a series on our old Hollywood stars wearing fabulous hats but I needed a co-host, one not afraid to give an honest opinion so I've chosen Shirley Temple! Right now Shirley looks thrilled but we shall see if that changes as this series moves forward.  So if you're all ready let the fashion show commence.

What do you think of Ann Miller, Shirley? Shirley: "She is very tall and pretty but I'm more interested in the swing"

Okay, what about Ann Sheridan? Shirley: "Is this a joke? I' would like to borrow it to go for a ride down a water slide"  Guessing it was a bit too expensive for that Shirley!

Betty Grable looks fabulous, don't you agree? Shirley: She looks trust worthy, like my school teacher."

Colleen Moore? Shirley: "Is that real fur?"   Nope! Not at all...moving along.

Carole Lombard looks divine! Shirley: I don't know what divine means but she's very serious and her hair reminds me of my puppies tail"  We all can't have perfect little curls Shirley!

Hedy Lamarr looks perfect! Shirley: It reminds me of an ice cream cone and that I'm working through lunch again!" Eat your pixie stick, we're almost done!

Claudette Colbert in faux fur (pretty certain) Shirley: Claudette knitted that between scenes one day..she's very talented for an adult actress"

Gail Patrick, looking fashionable in hounds tooth. Shirley: She isn't showing any teeth but I recognize that gate!"...It's what they use to keep us corralled between scenes"  Uhmmm.... It's probably best we don't discuss that here or anywhere.

Eve Arden in a pretty little hat.  Shirley: I've seen that one before, on the Good Ship Lollipop"

Jean Arthur, fancy smancy! Shirley: Was she trying out to replace me for my number in Poor Little Rich Girl? If not I like her just fine.

Well, we will stop here for now. Somebody needs a nap and Shirley is getting cranky too. We hope you'll return for our weekly series on hats followed by my Winter series: Stars in furs (shhhh, Shirley thinks they are all faux fur)
Have a great day!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Academy Awards: 1934

It's time to have a look at the Academy Award winners, nominees and the snubs for 1934.

Winner: It Happened One Night, Nominees: The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Cleopatra, Flirtation Walk, The Gay Divorcee, Here Comes the Navy, The House of Rothschild, Imitation of Life, One Night of Love, The Thin Man, Viva Villa!, The White Parade

Winner: Clark Gable in "It Happened One Night", Nominees: Frank Morgan in "Affairs of Cellini", William Powell in "The Thin Man"

Winner: Claudette Colbert in "It Happened One Night", Nominees: Grace Moore in "One Night of Love", Norma Shearer in "The Barretts of Wimpole Street", Bette Davis in "Of Human Bondage" (a write-in candidate)

Winner: Frank Capra for "It Happened One Night", Nominees: Victor Schertzinger for "One Night of Love", W.S. Van Dyke for "The Thin Man"

Oscar Snubs and Omissions:
Myrna Loy in "The Thin Man
Marlene Dietrich in "The Scarlet Empress"
Bette Davis in "Of Human Bondage" (she was a write-in candidate but more on that later)
W.C. Fields in "It's A Gift"
Joseph Von Sternberg for directing "The Scarlet Empress"
Howard Hawks for directing "Twentieth Century"
John Barrymore in "Twentieth Century"
Edgar Ulmer for directing "The Black Cat"
Leslie Howard in "Of Human Bondage"

Film Snubs and Omissions:
Of Human Bondage
The Scarlet Empress
The Black Cat
Twentieth Century
It's A Gift

An honorable mention goes to "The Black Cat" for it's cinematography and art direction/set design

John Barrymore and Carole Lombard's performances in "Twentieth Century"

Leslie Howard and Bette Davis for their outstanding performances in "Of Human Bondage" as well as John Cromwell for directing.

Oscar Fun Facts and Trivia for 1934:

The ceremony was held in March of 1935 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles and hosted by Irvin S. Cobb. It had been held at the Ambassador Hotel the previous three years and at the Biltmore previously in 1931.

This would be the first year that Oscars weren't handed out for performances, films spanning over two years and the way it would be going forward.

"It Happened One Night" would be the first film to claim a "clean sweep" , winning the golden statue for all five of the top categories, Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Best Screenplay. A feat not duplicated again until 1976 with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" then again for "Silence of the Lambs" in 1992.

There was such a controversy, outrage over Bette Davis not being nominated for her performance in "Of Human Bondage" that the Academy allowed for a write-in candidate for the first time in Oscar history. Write-in candidates would be allowed until after 1935.

Three new categories would be introduced this year. Best Editing, Best Original Score and Best Original Song. (I'm sure all of you can think of one or two Best Song winners over the years that you just shook your head at)

The musical/comedy "One Night of Love" received the most nominations with 6 and it won two, Best Musical Score and Best Sound Recording.

This would be the first year that both leads won the Best Actor/Actress Oscar with Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable winning for "It Happened One Night". This would be one of three career nominations for Clark and his only Oscar win. Claudette also broke records for starring in three Best Picture nominees with "It Happened One Night", Imitation of Life" and "Cleopatra" that year. I don't think anyone would dispute her Academy Award win. (well, perhaps Bette)

Walt Disney would pick up his third consecutive Oscar in the Short Subject: Cartoon category for "The Tortoise and the Hare" 

Shirley Temple, at the age of five at the time of the ceremony, received the first ever "Special/Juvenile" Oscar for her 'outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during 1934'. She was presented with a miniature version of Oscar.  Shirley appeared in 12 full length pictures during 1934, so you could say she was the hardest working person in pictures, not counting her downtime for naps and schooling of course.

The Best Picture category had a record 12 film nominees that year then in 1935 but it would then decrease to 10 then finally to five per year.

Thanks everyone for coming back for my Academy Award series as we approach the next Oscar season. Please enjoy the famous 'Hitchhiking Scene" from "It Happened One Night" and leave a comment about what you thought of the winners, losers and snubs for 1934.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Classic Film: Six Degrees of Separation ROUND ONE continued

Well okay! Things are already back to me during round one and Dawn of Noir and Chick Flicks chose
Kirk Douglas and Gena Rowlands in Lonely Are The Brave (1962) to which I will say

Gena Rowlands and Rock Hudson in The Spiral Road (1962)
The next name out of the hat is Priscilla of Reel Revival so take it away Priscilla! (In case you missed my first post, the initial stars to connect by six degrees were Mabel Normand and Walter Matthau.)


*Yes, I accidentally on purpose looped back so we could end the first round at six degrees. I should have known our members were too clever. : )

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Classic Film: Six Degrees of Separation game has officially begun!

You may have noticed these logos popping up on several CMBA members sites and wondered what it was all about.  Well, we are kicking off the first ever Classic Film: Six Degrees of Separation game. To get it started I have put everyone's name with a logo into a hat and the first person who will carry the game forward is Dave of Dave's Classic Films.

Without further ado The Password Is: Oh, wait, that's another fun game. The first two actors we will be connecting in hopefully 6 Degrees are:

Mabel Normand and Walter Matthau

Before the first round kicks off:
Anyone who hasn't yet added a logo can do so at any time.  The person who connects to Matthau will then choose the next two stars and so on.  For now we won't be including Directors or Television shows but perhaps that could be a fun option at a later date. Going forward I'm just another player so everyone will put their next star and film choice on their blog, hopefully within a day or two of being chosen.  Of course I will be available to answer any questions via email or if you want a different logo etc. Choose whoever goes next however you want to but as a courtesy make sure they have a logo first. I will keep an updated list on everyone who's participating so if you need that let me know.

Oh, I know stars can probably be connected in less than six films but hopefully each round goes to six so they aren't over before they even get started. (We have some very clever bloggers within the CMBA)

Thanks everyone who has signed on to play and for putting up with my emails while we worked out all of the details. You're all great sports.

*You don't need to 'sign up' to have a turn or let me know guys...just having your logo up is enough for others to find someone to move the rounds forward. Sorry if there was any confusion.

Let the fun begin!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Hopefully nobody will have to hunt for their dinner like Judy Garland. 

Since part of Thanksgiving is getting together with loved ones over a giant helping of homemade goodies I thought I would take a different approach this Thanksgiving and show our fabulous old Hollywood stars out stuffing themselves.  Hopefully it will make you feel better about over indulging even though they probably didn't touch their plates because they were too full from sucking up all of the oxygen in the room. 

So get your comfy pants on with the elastic waist band and let's have a glimpse at the stars while they sit around a table. 

Al Jolson and Ingrid Bergman enjoying themselves over a fancy dessert. 

Ann Sheridan and Jeff Chandler graciously posing for a photo while out at dinner.

Dorothy Lamour and Betty Hutton are out on the town at The Brown Derby.

Dolores Gray, Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly find time to have a bit to eat at a local diner.

Gene Tierney and Victor Mature get serenaded while out at The Stork Club. (So far I've seen mostly smoking and drinking so hopefully we'll see some actual food)

Charlie Chaplin out with wife Paulette Goddard. (Well, at least they appear to actually be ordering something)

Gloria Valdez out with Clara Bow and husband Rex Bell. (Who eats with a giant fur on?)

Randolph Scott who appears to be deep in chat between courses.

Glenn Ford out with Evelyn Keyes

Virginia Bruce with Jimmy Stewart. I think the only time these stars actually ate was during awards shows.

Gloria Swanson seems to be having a grand time out with friends. I don't think we have to worry about there being any eating going on here either. The table is covered with purses but who can eat with that distracting zebra print hovering about? 

Jeannette MacDonald with husband, Gene Raymond (I see a dinner roll!)

Frank Sinatra having dinner with Lauren Bacall but the only food is being eaten by an unknown guest.

Ray Milland, Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings, enjoying a nice meal. I am betting that it's just strained broth. 

Betty Grable having dinner with her daughters, Victoria and Jessica. They were probably just there to feed the dolls! Just look at that fat little doll on the right.

Well okay, that was more of a public service announcement against smoking in restaurants but don't give up!

Greer Garson is here to save the day! She looks like she knows her way around a kitchen.

Wishing you all safe travels and blessings, that your day is filled with many things to be thankful for while surrounded by loved ones.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Simone Simon (1910-2005)

Born near Marseille, the French beauty got her start on the silver screen after a chance encounter.  She spent her childhood, for the most part in France after relocating to Madagascar, Budapest, Berlin and Turn then Marseille to finish high school. All of this travel was made possible due to her French father's job as an engineer that transitioned to his becoming a fighter pilot during WWII. Sadly it would become the ultimate sacrifice for his country as he was captured then placed in a concentration camp where he eventually died.  Simon's Italian mother would make due with small jobs in order to care for her family.

Simone made her way to Paris in 1931 to find work. Like most young girls she wasn't quite sure which of her interests she would pursue as a career. At one point she wanted to become a sculptress, a model, a singer and a fashion designer.  It was a chance encounter that would choose her career path for her. I guess you could say it was the Lana Turner story French style. (No word on if she was wearing a tight sweater). While dining at a restaurant with friends Simon was spotted by the Russian director, Victor Tourjansky who offered her a film contract.  She would make her film debut in Le chanteur inconnu (The Unknown Singer) that same year. The film was an instant success, paving the way for Simone to be offered steady work in foreign films.

Although a famous star in France by 1934, it would be her performance in Marc Allegret's "Ladies Lake" that year that would get the attention of Hollywood heavy hitter Darryl Zanuck, another encounter that would propel her to worldwide fame.  Like so many actresses before her, she was brought to Hollywood where the studio machine launched a campaign to get her noticed, the name recognition that would fill theater seats.  After filming one more film in her native France in 1935, Simone was ready to relocate to California, embracing all that it had to offer, good or bad.

Once settled in CA, Simone was given her first assignment, not on screen of course but in a classroom where she would take weeks of lessons, not for acting but to actually learn English well enough to fit into certain roles. She was to appear in her first English speaking film in 1936, "A Message to Garcia" Unfortunately the studio felt Rita Hayworth was better suited for the role. I can only imagine the young Simone trying to adjust to her second language then being offered a role where she would be tanned, and directed to give a Spanish accent. Perhaps it was lucky for her that Rita, who was actually of Spanish decent took the role.

click on Simone's autograph and photos from my collection for a closer view.

Before Simone's International career even got started there was a bit of hubbub over her being fired from her first film during 1935. While filming "Under Two Flags" under director Frank Lloyd, she was let go after a few weeks and Zanuck let it be known that it was her temperamental behavior on set which Simone disputed, having cited a lingering illness for her being discharged from the picture.  Years later she would admit that she was a bit temperamental during her first year in Hollywood but it was due to getting used to the California lifestyle which she felt was a bit too extroverted.  Her behavior also changed after a confrontation with Marlene Dietrich on set who told her "A star is only as important as she makes herself out to be" (Meowww, hiss).  Claudette Colbert would replace Simone in "Under Two Flags" which co-starred Ronald Coleman. It should be noted that Simon was actually hospitalized during this time, most likely due to exhaustion. Luckily it wasn't from Dietrich clawing her eyes out.  (I wonder if she was thinking of dear, sweet Marlene years later while playing a black panther?)

By 1936, Simone had grown disillusioned with Hollywood and was preparing to sail back to France when she was offered a supporting role in "Girls Dormitory". The romantic drama starred Herbert Marshall and Ruth Chatterton. Obviously Chatterton like Dietrich before her witnessed the same temperamental behavior which caused immediate conflict on the set between her and Simone. Ruth felt Simone was getting too much attention and Simone's excuse this go around was that she was extremely nervous due to the studio watching her so closely.  In the end the much anticipated film was a box office flop although Simone did get positive reviews for her first American on screen performance.  In just a few years she would be watched closely by the FBI but more on that a bit later.

With the public clamoring to see more of the French beauty, she was immediately cast in "White Hunter" which would also be directed by Irving Cummings. Although a B film, the director was anxious to work with her again but once again Simone was waylayed with the flu and had to be replaced shortly after production began.  This time she was replaced with June Lang. (I wonder how many out of work actresses waited around Simone's sets waiting on work?) 

The studio still wanting to avoid losing Simon, cast her instead in "Lady in Love" during 1936 which co-starred Constance Bennett, Loretta Young and Janet Gaynor.  Of course it wasn't long before the three actresses made noise about Simon getting too much attention so to avoid any further outcries about her behavior, Simone hired an assistant to speak for her, decreasing her need to get involved in all of the 'bitchiness' between the three very large ego's she was now surrounded by.  She would go on to star in the remake of "Seventh Heaven" with Janet Gaynor and James Stewart in 1937 which didn't have great success but I love the scenes between Simone and a very young but adorable Jimmy Stewart. Once it was released in theaters she was cast in "Danger-Love at Work" but she was once again replaced, this time with Ann Sothern, the official reason being her heavy French accent not fitting with the character.  With nothing to do she took a 6 week vacation back to France, returning to Hollywood in the summer of 1937 in anticipation of filming "Suez". This time filming was delayed and Simone was eventually replaced once again.  This would be the end of her working relationship with 20th Century Fox. (Obviously there was more bickering than actual working)

With Jimmy Stewart in "Seventh Heaven" 1937

By the end of the 1930's Simone returned to France, feeling her reputation had been tarnished and in need of steady work.  Her move to America left her deflated and frustrated that all of the publicity had backfired, affecting her ability to work in her native France.  She did get to work and realized that her appeal was still there, being given a role in the Renoir picture "La Bete Humaine in 1938 (The Human Beast) followed by the successful French Historical drama, "Love Cavalcade" which was released in 1940.  By now WWII was in full swing so to escape the ongoing devastation in her beautiful homeland, Simone returned to Hollywood, this time signing a contract with RKO Radio Pictures. 

Her first film for RKO was the very successful Fantasy Drama, "The Devil and Daniel Webster" which co-starred Edward Arnold, Walter Huston and Jane Darwell.  The film was a welcome escape during WWII, garnering two Academy Award nods in 1942, Walter Huston for Best Actor and for Best Music Scoring.  Simone, finally finding her niche, was immediately cast in the role that she has become synonymous with, "Cat People" 1942 which co-starred Kent Smith, Tom Conway and Jane Randolph. I don't know many old film fans who haven't seen Cat People and I actually re-watched it again just a few weeks ago. Perhaps Simon just needed a French director to understand her and to allow her to express herself, director Jacque Tourneur made that happen.  RKO invested in a few cheap, quickies to recoup some of their losses after Citizen Kane. (That seems odd to even type) The film that many consider the best film of all time, Citizen Kane just about bankrupted RKO so they churned out these B rated Horror films to bail themselves out of financial ruin.  

Like so many early horror films you don't actually see anything gruesome or scary, but you're left to your imagination as to what actually happens when Simone's character, a Serbian immigrant who winds up stateside and in love, all while we see her life unravel as she visits her Psychiatrist.  Oh, and there's the fun little fact that she turns into a killer black panther when she gets upset, aroused.  You have to feel for her doctor who crosses the line by falling in love with her all while she's delving into her terrifying past of strange curses about women turning into black cats and her obsession with these very objects that cause her life to spiral out of control. If only that silly doctor and her wayward husband had repossessed her day pass to the Bronx Zoo!  

Simone would get another chance at success in a Musical Comedy with " Tahiti Honey" in 1944, which co-starred Michael Whalen and Dennis O'Keefe. I haven't had the pleasure of seeing this film (sarcasm) so I'll go with IMDb's rating of 8.5 and if anyone has actually seen it please enlighten us.  Simon would star in three films for RKO during 1944. The War Drama, "Mademoiselle Fifi" which was directed by Robert Wise takes place during the French-Prussian War with Simone giving a beautiful performance in a film that given a bigger budget could have had even more success. (huh-hum Calvalcade) but it was during wartime so RKO did accomplish an eye appealing piece with strong performances by Simon and her co-stars John Emery and Kirt Krueger.  Interestingly the period piece was produced by Val Lewton who also produced Cat People and was known mostly for B rated Horror films at RKO during the 40's.

Simone would next shoot the sequel to "Cat People", reuniting with Kent Smith and Jane Randolph in "The Curse of the Cat People".  I have to admit that I wasn't all that crazy about this one. Simone is back but only as a ghost and the imaginary friend of a little girl, the daughter of Irena's widower husband. It did have box office success though so I won't rip on it too much. Simone's last film of 1944 was the Romantic Comedy "Johnny Doesn't Live Here Anymore" which co-starred James Ellison and William Terry.  I actually liked this film in all it's campy glory. I found Simone just great as she deals with the trials of sharing an apartment with young men during wartime at no fault of her own. The ending was a fun twist and the cast really did have good chemistry.  I wish she had been given more chances at comedy, I think she would have excelled.  

Simon did not work during 1945 and it was with the assistance of Director Marc Allegret that she was able to star under him in the French film "Petrus" in 1946, a Crime Mystery that had very little success.  Her last film of the decade would be in the Crime Drama "Temptation Harbor" 1947, co-starring Robert Newton and William Hartnell.  A film about greed over weighing what's morally correct, with mediocre performances by all involved.  Simone seems to have trouble maintaining her English accent after more than enough years to do so. (But it's not near as bad as the accents Angelina Jolie has tried to pull off over the years. Don't even get me started on "The Tourist" and that mess "Alexander").

Simone would return to France where she would continue to work in B rated pictures until retiring from the silver screen in 1956.  It's assumed that she led a quite life in and around Paris during this time and she would appear only once on screen in 1973 in the French film "The Woman in Blue".  Simone never married nor did she have any children.  She passed away from natural causes at the age of 94 in her Paris apartment. She was buried at the Cemetery, Chateau-Gombert in the Cote d'Azur region of France.  I hope her retirement was filled with love and laughter. It must be a hard to spend your later life without parents, siblings or children around you. I'm sure she had a very fine circle of friends though. 

With Don Ameche in one of her early 20th Century Fox films, "Josette"

Simone Simon Trivia:

The only bit of scandal that Simone ever found herself in was when her maid was caught stealing from her then later convicted. To get revenge, her maid leaked the rumor that Simone would hand out a gold key to her boudoir to any man she found herself attracted to.  Of course Simone disputed this rumor and the maid was quickly put under a gag order as part of her sentencing.

Simone had an affair with composer George Gershwin which she never denied when asked about it late in life, stating above all else it was music that they had in common. It's been suggested that Gershwin wrote Love Walked In with Simone in mind.

Her most notorious affair was with the double agent and Spy, Dusko Popov. It's not often that a Yugoslavian spy get's to spy for the German's (so they thought) only to be spying for the British. Popov's close friend Ian Fleming, used his life adventures for his character James Bond. 

During the production of "Cat People", Simone was under FBI surveillance for her association with Popov.  

Thanks for joining me for my look back at Simone Simon's life and career. And please enjoy the below clip of Simone and Jimmy Stewart in a scene from "Seventh Heaven"

See you all soon,