Sunday, April 25, 2010

Asthmatic quiz

This is my first attempt at such endeavor and, to complicate matters, my wife and I are three thousand miles away from home on a rainy Sunday afternoon in the friendly confines of Hammersmith, one of our favorite places. We are also equidistant from our images file, so the interspersal of pictures is limited.

None the less a delightful quiz. I am anxious to read the responses made by others but have held off doing so until we finish this. Please excuse any breaches of quiz etiquette -- attribute to my recent entry into such ranks -- and advise of same. Thank you.

Postscript: I am also a member of Advair Anonymous.

1. Which actors do you always (or did you always) mix-up?

Bonita Granville and Priscilla Lane

Bonita Granville (on the right)

Priscilla Lane (on the left)

Or is it the other way around?

2. Gidget or Beach Party?

My wife says Gidget

3. Favorite Movie Outfit?

The monks in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. My wife (Enola) also likes the Elizabeth Taylor outfit at the pool table in A Place in the Sun.

4. If you could be ANY character in ANY movie...who would you choose?

Rupert of Hentzau. Fairbanks Jr.

5. If you could marry ANY character in ANY movie...who would you choose?

Gerald: If I were single it would be Susan Ricci in The Spanish Prisoner or Ann Black in State and Main. Or any character played by Rebecca Pidgeon in any movie. (Mr. Mamet might object.)

6. If you could live in ANY movie...which would you choose?

Enola: Shadow of a Doubt. But only once Uncle Charlie was removed.

7. Black & White movies you wish were in Technicolor, or vice-versa?

The Long Good Friday.

8. Favorite Movie Soundtrack?

Odds Against Tomorrow. Modern Jazz Quartet (Gerald)
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Enola)
And all the Allan Gray scores for the Powell/Pressberger films.

9. Favorite Movie Dance Sequence?

Gerald: Our Love is Here to Stay in American in Paris.
Enola: Begin the Beguinne (Astaire and Powell). She is probably right.

10. Coolest Movie Star? (Cough, cough, BOBBY DARIN, cough, cough -Millie)

Enola: James Coburn

11. Sophia or Gina (Oh, how Kate enjoys replaying Gina's sad defeat OVER AND OVER! -Millie)


12. "Isn't It Romantic" in most Billy Wilder films, or "Red River Valley"

Gerald say Wilder; Enola says Ford.

13. If you could re-cast ANY role in ANY movie, what would it be?

Colin Blakely in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. He ruined what might have been a Wilder masterwork. Andre Morrell might have done fine, thank you.

14. Favorite movie character with your first name?

Enola has long lived with remarks about her name and a certain aircraft -- so she passes. Gable had Gerald's first and last name in No Man of Her Own.

15. One movie that should NEVER be remade? (under THE THREAT OF A SLOW, PAINFUL DEATH!)

Enola says A Canterbury Tale but Gerald suspects, although he loves it, there is little fear of that.

16. Actor or Actress who you would love to be best friends with?

Gerald would like Enola to be best friends with Rebecca Pidgeon.

17. Are you an Oscar or a Felix?

Role reversal. Enough said.

18. Actor/Actress you originally hated and now love?

Gerald never hated Harlow, but did not think much of her. He was very wrong. TCM was the antidote.

Enola was that way about Clark Gable.

19. Actor/Actress you originally loved and now don't like?

This is heresy to some, but I really liked Jack Lemmon in the early years, however, the grimacing got old. Nicholson's grimacing was always old.

20. Favorite performance that was looked over by Oscar? (Not to be confused with the aforementioned Oscar of Felix fame.)

Jean Hagen in Asphalt Jungle

21. Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie?

Is this a repeat of Question 1?

22. Hannibal Heyes or Kid Curry? (Hint for those who don't know who they are: pick Hannibal Heyes.)

I had the latter in an Indian restaurant in Southall.

23. Favorite Style Icon: Fred Astaire or Cary Grant?

Enola thinks Grant. Gerald thinks Astaire because he had less of the initial package with which to work.

24. Single most favorite movie scene EVER?

Wendy Hiller going up the path to the castle with the three pipers.

25. Movie you really "should" see, but have subconsciously been avoiding for who knows what reason?

Should see Star Wars because of its historical place in film history but cannot rise above the damage it did by establishing the template for that which was to come.

26. Movie quote you find yourself most often repeating in real life?

The Scots phrase uttered / shouted by Pamela Brown on seeing Torquil in I Know Where I'm Going! Might some linguist help?

27. 50's Westerns or 60's Spies? (I can't even answer this myself...but you have to! MWAHAHAHA! - Millie)

Cooper, Stewart and the lot.

28. Favorite splashy, colorful, obnoxious 50's musical?

29. Favorite film setting (example: Rome, Paris, Seattle, Siberia, Chile, Sahara Desert, etc)

Gerald says Paris because he reveres Jean Pierre Melville. But Gerald was born in the South Bronx, so ...

30. If you could own the entire wardrobe of any film, which would it be?

Le Samourai. Alain Delon. Including the bird.

31. Carol Burnette or Lucille Ball?

We split. Gerald Carol. Enola Ball.

32. Favorite Voice. Ever. Period?

Ronald Colman and Joan Greenwood.

33. Favorite movie that takes place in your home-state?

Gerald: Woody Allen's Manhattan and Radio Days
Enola: Miracle of the Bells (They have since torn down the church.)

34. Which actors would you want for relatives? (Mother, Father, Grandma, Crazy Aunt, annoying cousin, older brother, etc...)

Mostly done by Enola

Grandmother: Ethel Barrymore (Gerald remembers her non-Grandmotherly days)
Annoying Cousin: Rosalind Russell
Father: Ben Johnson
Mother: Irene Dunne (Gerald opts for Spring Byington)
Crazy Aunt: Elsa Lanchester, Carmen Miranda and Edna May Oliver
Crazy Uncle: Burt Lancaster and Danny Kaye
Pet: Adolf from We're No Angels (he would be handy to have around)

Click here to access the originators of the quiz

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Words and Images 27

A word: I am disinclined to append my thoughts to the Words and Images series. It is told in the words and the images. Doll has little to say to Dix Handley in this remarkable film. She straightens up his flat, she serves coffee, and she nods affirmation. And when Dix dies, with his dreams, in a field of bluegrass, she runs up a hill toward a house in the distance. Seeking help. True to the end. Clarence Brown said about photographing Garbo that you could see thought. So with Jean. Thus with Doll.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Titanic 2 of 2

On the Atlantic (sailing close to the remains of Titanic)

I first crossed this wicked ocean on a troopship in 1958. My wife and I have traversed it numerous times since, during the next half century. And each time, on each trip, when we pass reasonably close to those unmarked sepulchres, one can almost hear again that simple piece of music which some called Autumn. For when at sea, one cannot help but hear the sounds of yesteryear, listen to the voices of those who have crossed before, and to think of the ships now gone to that neverland into which aging ships pass.

The waters of reverie do not come with proper charts. I was a child of the Great Depression and in those days our parents discussed Titanic in general conversation, spoke of the Morro Castle, and my father, being a New Yorker, talked often about the General Slocum. So peril at sea and on other waterways was part of our world. (As our uncles learned, in the 1940s while travelling in khaki aboard the great Queens.)

I later learned about Titanic in the relatively dry surroundings of Bronx movie houses. The first I remember was the Negulesco / Stanwyck film (with the great Thelma Ritter) and some others which used a Titanic-like motif (e.g., History is Made at Night). A few years later came the Walter Lord book and its filmed manifestation: the excellent A Night to Remember. A spate of books (and television versions) carried us through the next decades until 1995 when Titanic surfaced on Broadway in a very good musical: Titanic.

The public memory of the play has been somewhat swamped by the later film spectacle of 1997, on which I shall refrain from comment. Like the controversial Captain Lord of the Californian, I will ignore the rockets glare from that aberration and return to my slumber at sea.

Titanic (the musical) played at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway from April 1997 through March 1999. It ran through 804 performances. I saw it first alone and then, a second time, with my wife. We were both quite taken with it -- and moved by it. I have further thoughts on the big ship, but those are for another crossing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Titanic 1 of 2


The big ship ran across an ice field shortly before midnight. Within three hours, one of the great dramas of the twentieth century unfolded. In a disputed section of ocean, the ice prevailed, the ocean abided, and the sepulchres went unmarked.

Titanic was theatre, in real time, in three acts. The time it took to sink approximated that which it takes to perform a play. Ice, then heroism and cowardice, acceptance and denial shared the decks. Death took no holiday, heeded no class. The rich drowned among the poor. Mrs. Straus chose to stay, and from such drama sprang the literature, from the literature -- the legend. And Lady Marjorie later went into the Atlantic as did Noel Coward's newly wed Marryots.

It is said that an era died on that cold night a scant two years before the lamps went out and the east wind blew. The Edwardians are gone, but the world long remembers a maiden voyage, a wicked ocean, and the night Titanic slipped into the sea.

Some thirty years after I wrote that introduction to an antiquarian book catalogue, I find myself yet again at sea. And again on April 15th, because my wife and I are partial to North Atlantic crossings in early spring. In approximately two days we will pass within 90 nautical miles of where Titanic rests.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Off the Lot 3

My wife and I depart New York Harbor tomorrow and soon thereafter will be on the Great Circle Route to Southampton. Postings will continue, but might be less frequent for about six weeks.

After two days at sea we should pass within fifty miles of the graveyard of Titanic, which is approximately 450 miles south-east of Halifax in the North Atlantic.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Short Cuts 3

Parole Girl. 1933. Directed by Edward F. Cline.
Columbia Pictures.

Name a Mae Clarke film which includes a grapefruit scene where the grapefruit stays on the plate. Parole Girl.

The title pretty much sets the stage. A basically decent girl takes a bad turn under the influence of a ne'er do well. She gets involved in a few scams, is compromised, and sent to prison for a year. Those who caught her are unsympathetic to her pleas to overlook her transgressions. She dons prison garb mostly because of a stolid office type played by Ralph Bellamy to whom rules are rules. (He’ll be sorry.)

The prison scenes are nicely done and look like what I think a woman’s prison might look like. My wife said the prison matrons really look like prison matrons, which makes one wonder. Mae’s sidekick, played by Marie Prevost, is a bit lacking given all the sidekick talent around at that time.

Anyway, while in prison, Mae plots for her early release and subsequent revenge on poor Ralph. She starts a fire in a workshop, helps put it out, is injured in the process and, hence, is paroled early.

What better way to get even with Ralph? Marry him. Kind of. There follows this business of who married whom, and when. And were they really married, and who might be a bigamist -- but it all sorts out. (This is not Edmond Dantes stuff.)

I like Mae Clarke, whose appearance seems to change somewhat as the story progresses. (There are times she reminds me of Norma Shearer.) Anyway, and here’s a twist: the Ralph Bellamy character gets the woman -- they get married, and only once this time. Yet I can’t help wondering, after things settled down and a bit of time passed -- if, perhaps, they might have moved to Tulsa.

Pick of the litter: Mae Clarke, by default.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Portrait of a washerwoman

Portrait of a washerwoman

(Marlene Dietrich speaks about living at the Plaza and visiting her daughter and baby grandson on Third Avenue)

"I'm the baby-sitter. As soon as they leave the house, I go around and look in all the corners and straighten the drawers and clean up. I can't stand a house that isn't neat and clean. I go around in all the corners with towels I bring with me from the Plaza, and I clean up the whole house. Then they come home at one or two in the morning, and I take the dirty towels and some of the baby's things that need washing, and, with my bundle over my shoulder, I go out and get a taxi, and the driver, he thinks I am this old washerwoman from Third Avenue, and he takes me in the taxi and talks to me with sympathy, so I am afraid to let him take me to the Plaza. I get out a block away from the Plaza and I walk home with my bundle and I wash the baby's things, and then I go to sleep."

Marlene Dietrich as told to Lillian Ross in Here but not Here, Random House, 1998.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Short Cuts 2

Professional Sweetheart. 1933. Directed by William A. Seiter.
RKO Radio Pictures.

Two rival groups vie for the radio services of Ginger Rogers (as Glory Eden), who is dissatisfied with her image as the “Purity Girl.” With regularity she expresses a desire for the sinful high life, the greatest manifestation of which is going to Harlem. (I assume many of you have seen The Cotton Club.)

Shenanigans occur, a romance is introduced, and Glory Eden falls in love with a boring, but well meaning fellow. At film’s end, the rival factions settle their differences; combine like good capitalists, and produce a washrag or something. The “Purity Girl” promotes it and 73 minutes have passed. I do not think Glory ever got to Harlem, but there were moments when Ginger Rogers moved into Harlow country -- and she crossed that border well.

You know a film is in trouble when you start assessing the diversity of wipes. I thought I saw a propeller wipe about halfway in. When tired of the wipes, I began counting which of the fine (male) character actors were wearing hats indoors (a commonplace practice in my time).

Finally, the frequent references to Harlem brought on a reverie. I was a Bronx native and, in my teens and early twenties, spent some time with friends in East Harlem. This was not Cotton Club Harlem; this was not where Glory Eden sought to go. This was just another of those New York areas, a collection of neighborhoods, small towns within a big city. Then, as now, Harlem was many things to many people.

Pick of the litter: Ginger Rogers, of course.

Harlem Cityscape 1939 by Mark Baum.

Thursday, April 1, 2010