Podcast: Kristen Lopez and I Talk About “Gilda” and Rita Hayworth

Posted on June 13, 2018 at 6:20 pm

Copyright 1946 Vidor Studios

Many thanks to the always-great Kristen Lopez for inviting me on her classic films podcast to talk about “Gilda” and the star who made her iconic, Rita Hayworth.

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Movie Duo Blogathon 2018: Burns & Allen, Sinatra & Martin, Williams & Montalban and More

Posted on May 20, 2018 at 10:05 am

This year’s Dynamic Duos in Classic Movies Blogathon is a delight, featuring movie pairings from real-life couple George Burns and Gracie Allen to those whose appearances together were limited, even one-time but still unforgettable. The duos covered include Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, horror masters Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, even Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

The tributes include the most iconic movie pairs — Astaire and Rogers, Hope and Crosby, William Powell and Myrna Loy and Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn — and some almost forgotten, like Robert Montgomery and Norma Scherer. There are couples who loved each other (Roy Rogers and Dale Evens) and pairs who loathed each other (Joan Crawford and Bette Davis). Apparently, Cary Grant is the utility infielder, as he shows up in several unforgettable pairings.

See the line up here and here.

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Google Doodle: George Melies

Posted on May 3, 2018 at 1:18 pm

I love today’s Google Doodle, a tribute to one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, George Melies.  He was a French stage magician who was really the first person to understand the possibilities in film beyond simply filming actors as though they were on stage.  You could call him the inventor of special effects.  And you might remember the tribute to him in Martin Scorsese’s movie Hugo, based on the book by Brian Selznick.

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Here is a glimpse of Melies’ work:

 

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Movie MVP of the Month: American Sign Language in “Rampage” and “A Quiet Place”

Posted on April 11, 2018 at 8:22 am

Two April movies feature ASL (American Sign Language), the beautiful, complex language based on hands, gestures, and facial expressions that is used by Deaf and non-speaking people in America and English-speaking Canada. “A Quiet Place” is about a family trying to survive in a world overrun with vicious blind animals who attack by using their hyper-acute hearing. So they communicate via ASL, which they all know because they have a Deaf daughter, played by Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds of “Wonderstruck.”

In this week’s “Rampage,” the primatologist played by Dwayne Johnson uses ASL to communicate with an ape called George, along the lines of the famous experiments with Koko the gorilla and Washoe the chimp.

And the 2017 Oscar-winner for Best Picture and Best Director was “The Shape of Water,” which also featured ASL, as Sally Hawkins played a mute woman who communicated with a highly evolved amphibian.

Other movies featuring character using ASL to communicate include: “Children of a Lesser God,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “Johnny Bedelia,” “The Miracle Worker,” and “Baby Driver.”

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How Screenwriters Described Iconic Female Characters

Posted on April 10, 2018 at 3:22 pm

We’ve seen so many awful stories about the way that female characters are described in movie scripts that it was a real relief and pleasure to read Vulture’s list of the way that fifty great characters were first imagined and described by their screenwriters.  There’s a whole extra level of delight in getting to see writing by some of the best writers in Hollywood that we would normally not get to see.  We think of them as only being responsible for the witty dialogue, but they are also every bit as good at defining a character in a few short sentences of description as they are with what we will actually hear her say on screen.  (Note: The odd capitalization of character names and other words is standard for movie scripts.)

Kyle Buchanan and Jordan Crucchiola lead off with one of the most vivid characters in the history of movies, aging theatrical star Margo Channing, as played by Bette Davis in “All About Eve :”

How do you create a memorable female character? It helps if you get it right from the very beginning, as Joseph L. Mankiewicz did in his screenplay for All About Eve when he introduced the woman who would be played by Bette Davis. “The CAMERA follows the bottle to MARGO CHANNING,” wrote Mankiewicz in his stage directions. “An attractive, strong face. She is childish, adult, reasonable, unreasonable — usually one when she should be the other, but always positive.”  

via GIPHY

One of the best ones is this wonderfully evocative introduction of the faded movie star played by Gloria Swanson in “Sunset Boulevard:”

via GIPHY

Norma Desmond stands down the corridor next to a doorway from which emerges a flickering light. She is a little woman. There is a curious style, a great sense of high voltage about her. She is dressed in black house pajamas and black high-heeled pumps. Around her throat there is a leopard-patterned scarf, and wound around her head a turban of the same material. Her skin is very pale, and she is wearing dark glasses.

Few women but Audrey Hepburn could truly live up to this description in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s:”

The girl walks briskly up the block in her low cut evening dress. We get a look at her now for the first time. For all her chic thinness she has an almost breakfast-cereal air of health. Her mouth is large, her nose upturned. Her sunglasses blot out her eyes. She could be anywhere from sixteen to thirty. As it happens she is two months short of nineteen. Her name (as we will soon discover) is HOLLY GOLIGHTLY.

via GIPHY

One of the best screen couples has got to be Nick and Nora Charles from “The Thin Man.” If you haven’t had the pleasure of falling in love with them onscreen, rest assured that this description of Nora will do it for you:

NORA CHARLES, Nick’s wife, is coming through. She is a woman of about twenty-six… a tremendously vital person, interested in everybody and everything, in contrast to Nick’s apparent indifference to anything except when he is going to get his next drink. There is a warm understanding relationship between them. They are really crazy about each other, but undemonstrative and humorous in their companionship. They are tolerant, easy-going, taking drink for drink, and battling their way together with a dry humor.

via GIPHY

I especially enjoyed the contrast between the descriptions of Sarah Connor in the first and second “Terminator” movies. And the quiz to try to guess the character from the description.

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