Gloria Swanson - Pola Negri - Anita Page - Anna May Wong - Colleen Moore- Theda Bara - THEY HAD FACES!

March 31, 2009

As Norma Desmond once said "we didn't need voices... we had FACES" -- silent movie stars really had the most interesting, fascinating faces (and hairstyles by the way) of all the different eras of movies. I picked out six of my favorite faces, and here they are!
By the way-- if you like any of these, don't forget that you have about 24 hours (until 11:59pm EST on April 1) to get my prints 1/2 price, with free shipping (domestic & international) for details, click here.

Anna May Wong

Pola Negri

Gloria Swanson.
Alicia at 1000 follies wrote a great article about
Gloria Swanson last week-- to read, click here.

Anita Page

Theda Bara

Colleen Moore

Norma Shearer

by Raquelle at
Out of the Past

Guest Blogger

Norma Shearer was a sight to behold. She was simply stunning and had an elegance and grace that translated well on film and in photographs. Shearer loved the camera and the camera loved her, but their courtship started off on very rocky footing. Over the years Shearer, along with the help of studio stylists and photographers, developed tricks and techniques for her so that the camera always captured her in the best light possible.

If Norma Shearer was so beautiful, what could she have had to hide? Shearer's biggest physical flaw was the slight cast in one of her eyes. Technically it was not a lazy eye but it was ever so off center, enough to make her look cross-eyed. At one point she had surgery to correct this, but it never did fully go away. So what did she do? She dealt with it. If you watch Norma Shearer's films or see any of her photographs, she'd always tilted her head and face at an angle. It created a dramatic look, showcased her spectacular profile and hid her major flaw. It took years of practice and it wasn't until well into her talkie career in which her crossed eyes are completely unnoticeable. She learned an effective trick from photographer George Hurrell that if she looked towards directly in the camera's direction she had to look past it, as though she was looking beyond at something very far away.

As I got to learn more and more about Norma, I discovered that she had even more physical flaws that she withheld from the camera. She had a short dumpy figure, a result of thick legs and arms on a petite body. She was also knock-kneed, something clearly visible when you see her silent film He Who Gets Slapped (1924). Shearer learned to hide her legs with long skirts and dresses and showcase her torso which was slender. She got very knowledgeable about lighting and refused to be shot at any unflattering angle. This oftentimes made her clash with her co-stars who also wanted to look their best on screen. The most notable one is Clark Gable, Shearer's co-star in A Free Soul (1931), Strange Interlude (1932) and Idiot's Delight (1939). Gable had huge ears which were very noticeable and everything possible was done to hide them. He was banned from wearing bowler hats, he had to always look away from the camera and oftentimes his ears were taped to his head so they would lay flat. You can imagine all the work it took to get the best lighting and positioning for when Gable and Shearer shared a scene. It must have been quite a battle!

Beyond the physical, Norma used her natural charisma to enhance her beauty. She always had lively expressions and elegant hand and arm movements. Her vibrancy was electric and seemed to light up the screen. Who would be searching for flaws when they would be too busy being entranced by her charm?

So why do Norma's flaws matter? Norma Shearer acknowledged what she had and what she didn't and worked very hard to be her best. It's something that made her notorious as a diva but to me it showed her admirable diligence to overcome obstacles in her path. I've learned from her and even I've developed tricks so I can look my best on camera.

The Dancer

March 27, 2009

I've been MIA the last two days* for a reason... my final was due for my documentary film history class! For my final, I chose to make a short documentary featuring my 97 year old aunt, and her dancing past! She's quite a spunky lady, and I love hearing her talk about sneaking out to dances when she was 14 (1925!) I thought you might enjoy it too...

*well, almost two days... actually more like 36 hours...

John Mills

March 26, 2009

Yesterday would have been David Lean's 101st birthday. To commemorate the occasion, TCM played British movies all day (peculiarly only three of which were actually directed by Lean.) I was in all my glory yesterday-- I adore British films, particularly David Lean films, and particularly David Lean films which star John Mills, of which two were shown yesterday.

I often lament about the whole PAL/NTSC kerfuffle, and John Mills accounts for about 75% of that whining. It kills me to see so many interesting movies in his filmography, all out of my reach. In 2007, when I got my handy dandy, spiffy DVD/VHS recorder, I was mistakenly under the impression that it was a jack-of-all-trades box; majestically it could play anything I popped in its slots-- PAL tapes, Region 2 DVDs, Chocolate bars, board games.... it could play anything! Imagine my excitement when I saw The History of Mr. Polly on ebay; a John Mills movie I'd been anxious to see for ages! I shelled out $20 for it (plus shipping from England) and impatiently checked my mailbox every day. When it finally came, I was overcome with glee. I ran up to my bedroom, popped it into my phantasmagorical box and hit play. Nothing! It didn't play! I was wrong! I still can't play PAL!! I practically cried.

I haven't been to England yet, but I was telling my mom the other day that when I finally book passage on an ocean liner (yes, when I go, I am going the old fashioned way) my itinerary will include a week holed up in a hotel room with a stack of British DVDs. It may just be the best week of my life.

Until then, I have a small collection of John Mills movies that I've recorded from TCM. The few that I have managed to see are among my favorite films in the universe. I think that of all the British actors who gained international stardom, Mills is the most underrated. His performances are nuanced and soft, not showy at all. Even in the outlandish farce The Wrong Box, Mills manages to keep his feet on solid ground.

I was actually a fan of his daughter, Hayley Mills, long before I even knew she was the offspring of this acting giant. Hayley Mills was my absolute favorite actress growing up. When I was in third grade, my teacher handed out construction paper star cutouts, and asked everyone to write their favorite person on the star. In a sea of cartoon characters and professional wrestlers, Hayley Mills stood out as the only classic film star. Was this a sign of things to come, or what?

PS. I know I started my blog after the 20 actors & 20 actresses meme went around, so I was never tagged, but I really want to do it anyway... It's going to be a little while, though, because I'm going to do paintings to go with each of the 40 people.

Lovely compliment!

Alicia at 1000 Follies just wrote the nicest, loveliest, most beautiful post about my artwork after she purchased three prints from my etsy store last week. She also writes wonderful posts about classic film so if you have a second to read the post-- here it is. I just had to share it :)

Steve McQueen

March 24, 2009

A birthday tribute by Mercurie at A Shroud of Thoughts
Guest Blogger

There are those actors who become legends, remembered long after they are gone. Sir Laurence Olivier and Katherine Hepburn both became legends in their own lifetime. But then there are those actors who become something more than legends. Not only are they remembered long after they have died, but they become a part of the very fabric of popular culture. Quite simply, they become icons.

It is these actors who are not simply remembered after they die, but who become symbols of how the average man or woman would like to be or what they want out of life. When people think of acting icons, they might think of James Dean or Marilyn Monroe. They might also think of Steve McQueen.

Terrence Steven McQueen was one of the first generation of actors who began in television. He would appear in episodes of some of the anthology series of the Fifties, among them Goodyear Television Playhouse, The United States Steel Hour, Studio One, and Alfred Hitchock Presents. In fact, the episode of Studio One in which Mr. McQueen appeared would be somewhat historic. It was the episode "The Defender" by Reginald Rose, which would inspire the classic TV show of the Sixties, The Defenders.

While Mr. McQueen gave memorable performances in the anthology series in which he appeared, it would be a Western series which would first bring him fame. On March 7, 1958, Steve McQueen guest starred in an episode of the Western Trackdown called "The Bounty Hunter." On the episode he played bounty hunter Josh Randall, As Josh Randall Mr. McQueen made a big impression, so much that the character was spun off into his own show--Wanted Dead or Alive. Not only would Wanted Dead or Alive make Steve McQueen a household name, but it would establish the sort of role for which he would become best known. Josh Randall was a no nonsense, ultra-cool bounty hunter who packed a modified Winchester 1892 Model carbine (which he called "the Mare's Leg"). And while he could be very grim in his pursuit of bad guys, Randall was also very soft hearted, helping prisoners if he believed they were wrongly accused and even giving his earnings to those in need.

Although the role of Josh Randall is not as well remembered as many of Steve McQueen's other roles, it can be argued that it is the role that started him on his path to becoming an icon. There are many who have labelled Josh Randall and the similar roles that would follow (Vin in The Magnificent Seven, Hilts in The Great Escape, Bullitt in the movie of the same name) "anti-heroes." To me this is hardly the case. Josh Randall, Vin, Captain Hilts, Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, and most of Mr. McQueen's other roles were, quite simply, heroes. It is true that they were often grim towards their opponents. And it is true that they often had little respect for authority. But these were men who remained true to their own codes of honour. Josh Randall gave money to the poor. Vin, alongside seven other men, decided to defend a poor village against incredible odds. Bullitt defied authority to catch the hitmen who shot his partner. These characters were not anti-heroes, they were heroes.

Of course, it was perhaps not enough that Steve McQueen played heroes. Other actors had done so before him and other would do so since his time. In both the roles he chose and even his private life, Mr. McQueen was a essentially a man of action. He raced both cars and motorcycles. He performed many of his own stunts (although one of the most famous, the motorcycle jump over the fence in The Great Escape, was actually performed by friend and stuntman Bob Ekins). He was even trained in the martial arts by Bruce Lee. Because Mr. McQueen was capable of many of the stunts performed by his characters, he lent a credibility to those characters that few other actors could have. Quite simply, Steve McQueen's characters weren't simply men of honour, they were bigger than life figures who were nearly indestructible.

Steve McQueen played ultra-cool characters with their own codes of honour in some of the biggest action movies of the Sixties and Seventies--The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, Nevada Smith, Bullitt, and Papillon. He would then become an hero and a role model for more than one generation of young men. When men between the ages of 60 and 30 discuss actors, it is a certainty that Steve McQueen's name will be brought up.

Like many boys growing up in the late Sixties, I was exposed to Steve McQueen's performances while very young. The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, Bullitt, and Papillon were among the earliest movies I remember watching. And while the tough, cool, yet good hearted characters Mr. McQueen played struck a chord with me, I had another reason to feel a special closeness to Steve McQueen. While he was born in Indiana, Mr. McQueen spent much of his childhood in Slater, Missouri, a town only about forty minutes from my hometown. Mr. McQueen had very fond memories of Slater and of his Great Uncle Claude who raised him there. If Steve McQueen was capable of playing heroes, I like to think that it was largely because of the small town values that his Great Uncle Claude instilled in him while he was in Slater. Indeed, the best role I think Steve McQueen ever played was that of Tom Horn in the movie of the same name. Here was a man from Missouri playing another man from Missouri, and both of them were bigger than life.

Of course, a young boy did not have to live near Steve McQueen's hometown to look up to him and even identify him. As an icon Mr. McQueen has infiltrated American pop culture to a degree that few other actors have. Numerous songs have been written about him, from the song "Steve McQueen" by Quicksilver Messenger Service to the song "Steve McQueen" by Sheryl Crow (a fellow Missourian) to the song "Steve McQueen" by the Automatic. I doubt even John Wayne has so many songs written about him.

Steve McQueen has also been referenced in many movies, from the comedy The Tao of Steve (in which the lead character bases an entire philosophy around Steve McQueen) to the comedy Then She Found Me to the drama The Kite Runner. And as anyone who watches the TV show House regularly knows, Dr. Gregory House is such a big fan of Mr. McQueen that he named his pet rat for him.

If Steve McQueen became an icon, if he has been enshrined in the hearts of men and women everywhere as the King of Cool, I believe it is because he played quintessentially American heroes. His characters were tough men who were capable of both taking and dealing out a lot of punishment. At the same time, however, most of his characters lived by their own codes of morality. These were men who would help the poor, defend the helpless, and remain true to their morals even if it meant death. Steve McQueen was truly the King of Cool, but the majority of his characters were never anti-heroes. They were quite simply heroes, and I suspect that was truly his key to success.

David Niven

As requested... David Niven.

David Niven was adept at all kinds of genres, but I prefer him most in comedy. He stars in one of my all-time favorite films, Bachelor Mother. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you seriously have to go rent it right now. Go ahead, I'll wait...

Alright, now that you are familiar with Bachelor Mother you know what I'm talking about. There are tons of fall-off-your-seat-from-laughing-too-hard scenes in this movie. Watch-- when I merely mention some of the scenes, you will find yourself sweetly reminscing and giggling as you picture them in your mind:

Attempting to return the duck incognito.

The flying/disappearing spoons.

The baby that crawls through the wall.

Hilarious phrases in Swedish that don't translate well.

Rubbing what into the navel?

A letter "from a friend."

In fact, I've been giggling so much just typing this that I think I'll stop now and go watch the movie again....

New DVD's to make your little classic-movie-loving heart go pitter patter!

March 22, 2009

Did anyone else see this post on ClassicFlix???

Warner Brothers is releasing 115 Classic Movies on DVD!! I am so giddy I can barely contain my excitement! Here are some of the fantastic highlights:

Dance, Fools, Dance (31) - Joan Crawford/Clark Gable
Chained (34) Joan Crawford/Clark Gable
Emma (32) Marie Dressler/Myrna Loy/Jean Hersholta
Private Lives (31) Robert Montgomery/Norma Shearer
On Borrowed Time (39) Lionel Barrymore/Beulah Bondi
Once Upon a Honeymoon (42) Cary Grant/Ginger Rogers
Possessed (31) Joan Crawford/Clark Gable
Wild Orchids (29) Greta Garbo/Lewis Stone
Strange Interlude (32) Norma Shearer/Clark Gable
Beast of the City (32) Walter Huston/Jean Harlow
Too Hot to Handle (38) Myrna Loy/Clark Gable
Close to My Heart (51) Ray Milland/Gene Tierney
The Moonlighter (53) Barbara Stanwyck/Fred MacMurray
Invitation (52) Van Johnson/Dorothy McGuire
Payment on Demand (51) Bette Davis/Barry Sullivan
A Lion is in the Streets (53) James Cagney/Barbara Hale
The Single Standard (29) Greta Garbo/Nils Asther
The Kiss (29) Greta Garbo/Conrad Nagel

(The picture is Marie Dressler in Emma, one of my all-time favorite films)

Audrey Totter

March 21, 2009

I was inspired to paint Audrey Totter today after reading a post on a blog I just discovered, Movietone News.

It seems that Audrey Totter is still alive, and living at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital. This particular residence has been making the news lately-- the owners want to tear it down to create apartments or something. All of the current residents would be relocated and disbursed elsewhere. Is it just me, or does this just seem criminal?

Matthew at Movietone News has a really great article detailing the story about the retirement community, as well as a great write up about Audrey Totter. I highly recommend taking a trip over to his blog to read it!

I've been a big fan of Audrey Totter's ever since I saw her in Lady in the Lake about 8 years ago. She has the most interesting face; with very exaggerated features she almost seems to be a living, breathing version of a 1940's pulp fiction illustration. It's a face just made for people who like to paint faces :)

Why I love Charlie Chaplin, and has it only been two months?

March 20, 2009

Yup, that's right-- today is my two month blogging anniversary! It's such a habit now, I can't even imagine what I was doing before I started it! Every day I have ideas swirling through my mind-- who will I paint tonight? Once I settle on someone, I start figuring out my post. Why do I like this actor? Which of their movies is my favorite? Can I even narrow it down to one? All of this has become part of my daily routine, and I really have no clue how I spent my days two months ago. It must have been awfully boring.

To celebrate my two month anniversary, I painted someone who isn't just one of my favorite actors, directors, composers and writers but one of my all-time favorite people. Period. Of course from the title of my post and from the aforementioned job description, I can't be speaking of anyone other than the brilliant Charlie Chaplin.

Oh, Charlie Chaplin. Where to begin? People who know me personally are by now aware of my infinite admiration for Charlie Chaplin. I'm known to go off on hour-long tangents just marveling at his genius. I think he was just as brilliant as one of his close friends, Albert Einstein-- he just used his genius for making movies instead of figuring out the theory of relativity.

Rather than slide into one of my little (well, big) raves about Charlie Chaplin and his incredible mind, I will simply explain why two of his films are counted among my absolute favorites.

First, The Pilgrim. This was a short comedy that Chaplin made about an escaped convict who disguises himself as a priest in a small town. I actually don't know how to explain why this is a favorite-- it just is. If you see it, you'll understand why I so adore it. I managed to find a clip on YouTube of one of my favorite scenes in the film, when Chaplin is trying to tolerate an annoying child. It's a Spanish video, so even though the screen titles are in in English, there are Spanish subtitles. Ugh. Youtube took the video down :-(

Now, my favorite Chaplin film (that also has the distinct honor of being in my very exclusive TOP FIVE list!) is Monsieur Verdoux. I was incredibly lucky last year to see it on the big screen in Pennsylvania, only a few days after my birthday. Best... Present... Ever. This is one of those few films where every piece of the puzzle aligned to form a perfect movie. The music, the acting, the script, the casting, the direction... every single thing in this film was perfect, from Chaplin's part as an ethical bluebeard right down to the tiniest of supporting roles.

Chaplin was an expert at combining melodrama with comedy (think The Kid, a movie that has you crying from laughing too hard at one point, and then a minute later crying because you are so heartbroken.) And Monsieur Verdoux may be the best example of his genre-defying genius. At its core, this is a movie about the ethics of war vs. murder. If a man kills in civilian life, he is a villan. If a man kills in war, he is a hero. (Chaplin's point wasn't that murder is okay, but that all violence should be eradicated, including violence in war) It's also a movie about love and family, and the things we will do, no matter how awful those things may be, to protect the people we love. And although Chaplin's character is a polished and wealthy gentleman, it's a film that I think brought back The Little Tramp (which Chaplin preferred to call "The Little Fellow".) Underneath his shiny exterior, Chaplin is still playing a hurt little guy that's just trying to get by in a very bleak world.

Of course Chaplin's genius is combining this melodramatic, moralistic tale with humor that makes your sides ache. Every time I've seen the movie (and trust me, I've seen it A LOT) I still laugh hysterically.

Charlie Chaplin was a man who put his star power to great use, even when it meant being blacklisted from Hollywood. His pictures The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux were not welcomed with open arms; at the time they were seen as too radical. But time has sided with Chaplin. Every one of his films is now a classic; Chaplin himself is now a movie legend. And I could probably count on one hand the number of people who would still call The Great Dictator "radical." If only he were alive today.... Chaplin would surely have the last laugh. (Oh, so cliche.. but it fits so well...)

Thanks to everyone who has been reading my run-on sentences and putting up with innumerable amounts of smiley face emoticons for the past two months :)

Happy St. Patrick's Day From Maureen O'Hara and George Brent

March 18, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

To celebrate the wearing of the green, I painted two movie stars who are as Irish as they come.


Maureen O'Hara is the female personification of Ireland. This is the first time since I've been doing these paintings that I wish I wasn't painting the faces in black and white. Her trademark technicolor red hair and bright green eyes just aren't done justice in shades of gray.

Maureen O'Hara is one of those actresses that I associate with one movie role. When I was a wee little lassie, Hayley Mills was my favorite actress, and The Parent Trap was my favorite of her films. You know when you're little you watch the same movie over, and over, and over until you have it memorized and forever burnt into your brain? Well, that's why, in my mind's eye, Maureen O'Hara will always, forever be Hayley Mills' mother. Since then I've watched a bunch of her films (I LOVE The Quiet Man) but every time she appears on screen, I still associate her with that one role. Even playing an upper crust Boston divorcee, she still oozes spunk and feisty-ness.

For my Irish lad, I was originally going to paint Pat O'Brien, but when I mentioned my Irish themed post to my mom, she not-so-subtely hinted "you know, George Brent was Irish." For the last two months, my mom has been dropping hints here and there that I should paint George Brent and Melvyn Douglas-- her two favorite actors. So Pat O'Brien will have to wait his turn.

George Brent was VERY Irish. Like Maureen O'Hara, he was born in Ireland. Unlike Maureen O'Hara, he was a sniper/assassin for Michael Collins in the IRA before coming to Hollywood. When I first read this online, I thought it was a joke. I began an incessant search to make sure it was true before I actually wrote it here. But everywhere, every biography I could find, indicated that George Brent fought for the IRA when he was a teenager. Wow.

Besides being a good shot, he was also a really great actor. I prefer the mustached George Brent of the late 30's and 40's, when he was a frequent co-star to Bette Davis (accomplishing something practically impossible in Bette Davis films-- managing to not be outshone in her presense.) My favorites usually have him playing a suave, debonair [insert notable profession here] but I think his best performance is in The Spiral Staircase. His character in this film is like a twisted version of his characters in other films. It's not a radical departure from the norm, something wild and crazy that would normally draw enormous attention. It's much more nuanced and subtle. It really seems as if he took those suave, debonair professionals that he was so used to playing, and tweaked it just enough to completely change the character. Just watch Dark Victory and Spiral Staircase back to back and you'll see what I mean.

So Happy St. Patricks Day from a very proud Irish lass! I know St. Patrick's Day is actually over now, but I hope everyone had a lucky day. May your path through life be lined with shamrocks :)

Classic Film Linguistics 101

March 17, 2009

Today was a stay in bed day, which in my book usually means: Barbara Stanwyck movie marathon-- I watched two films I recorded a few months ago and hadn't gotten around to watching yet -- Ten Cents a Dance and Illicit (I could write a whole book about how let down I was by the ending in Illicit... pre-code my foot!) and one of my favorites, Ball of Fire.

In case you aren't familiar with the premise of Ball of Fire: Barbara Stanwyck plays a sassy nightclub performer who is a walking encyclopedia of slang. Gary Cooper plays a stuffy professor who just so happens to be compiling an actual Encyclopedia of Slang. So Cooper recruits Stanwyck to teach him all the hip lingo that, being a stodgy professor, he knows nothing about. As such, this film is
filled to the brim with lots of yummy 30's and 40's lingo.

I like to use a lot of old words, my favorites being swell, gee whiz, neat and nifty. Since today is a no-painting, no-drawing, no-actual post sort of day, I thought I could at least accomplish something.... expanding my classic film vocabulary! In the comment section, let's compile our own Encyclopedia of
(Classic Film) Slang (don't you wish that they had actually published one as a gimmick for the film?! How nifty would that have been?!) Tell me what your favorites are... I am determined to start using these words more often!

By the way: I will be painting again in time to do a few of our favorite Irish lads and lasses. Happy St. Patricks Day!

Edward G. Robinson

March 14, 2009

Edward G. Robinson is most known for being a movie gangster. He's one of the BIG THREE -- Cagney, Bogart and Edward G. Robinson.

But my favorite of all his movies is The Whole Town's Talking, a 1935 comedic gem co-starring Jean Arthur. What makes this particular comedy so brilliant is Edward G. Robinson's dual roles. One of his characters, Arthur Ferguson Jones, is a meek, shy man who has a major crush on co-worker Jean Arthur. The other character, Killer Manion, is the biggest gangster in town-- a gun toting brazen bully.

As the mild mannered Arthur, Edward G. Robinson is just one of the sweetest souls in the movies. This is how I picture he was in real life. He just seemed like he had an angelic personality.

I just looked the movie up on tcmdb, and realized that -- once again! -- I'm recommending a film that is not on DVD. However, I have very good news for anyone who has TCM. It will be on at 8pm EST on March 15th! If you don't have TCM, call a friend who has it and ask them to tape it! Ask your parents- ask a coworker- ask a stranger on the street. It's such a terrific movie, you'll want to kick yourself if you miss it!

By the way-- does anyone have any suggestions for people I should paint/draw? Requests are always welcome :)

Barbara Stanwyck : The Greatest Actress EVER

March 12, 2009

Barbara Stanwyck was the greatest actress ever. Seriously.

I can't think of anyone else who could master comedy, mystery, drama, melodrama, suspense, musical, pre-code, western-- every single genre was her forte. And she wasn't just "good" in all of these different genres, she was great. Superb. Excellent. Perfect.

The very first Barbara Stanwyck movie that I can remember seeing was Meet John Doe. My parents used to play old movies when I was little, but it was occasional, and the obsession wasn't really encouraged. I was always fascinated by the actors and actresses, but when I inquired as to who they were my parents would, without fail, always say "a famous old actor" or "a famous old actress" -- so although I was a fan of Barbara Stanwyck's when I was but a wee lass, I didn't actually know her name until I was about 14 years old.

Ever since I found out her name, I've made it my mission to seek out all of her movies and watch them. Not just because I am an insane collector of all things classic-film, but because I am certain before I even watch the movie or read a review that the film will be great. Simply seeing the Stanwyck name above the title is a sure sign that you're in for a treat. I can't think of one, not one single movie I've seen of hers that was bad. I can't even think of one that was mediocre. They've all been fantastic.

One of the things that really separates Barbara Stanwyck from her peers is the ease of her performance, and the way she really blends into her characters. She always seems as if she is living her part. When watching her films, I always forget that there was a screenwriter, or a director or a cinematographer... it always seems like her dialogue hasn't been written for her... that nobody told her where to walk or how to move. All of her lines and gestures seem so natural and unscripted.

Since I started blogging in January, I've always seemed to have a harder time doing justice to the talents that I admire the most. Somehow it is easier for me to write about people that I like in a casual sense, but when it comes to my absolute favorites like Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Colman, my fingers experience the typing equivalent of being tongue tied. I just can't express with words how much these people mean to me, how impressed I am by their talent, and how very much I love their movies.

In this case, I am lucky-- somebody has put into words everything I wish I could say about Barbara Stanwyck. TCM has a series of spots which feature famous people voicing tributes to their own favorite filmmaker. Jennifer Jason Leigh recorded a tribute to Barbara Stanwyck a few years ago, and even though I have seen it on TCM about one thousand times since it first aired, I actually drop what I'm doing and watch it every time it's on. It's that good.

While I was on YouTube looking for the TCM tribute, I came across these other two videos as well, and had to include them. The first one is a scene from one of my all-time favorite Stany movies, Banjo on My Knee. It never airs on TCM and isn't available on DVD (I think) but I caught it on Fox Movie Channel once, and I'm so glad I did. It's a joy, and the musical numbers are fantastic! This clip has Barbara Stanwyck singing with Tony Martin (when he was still being billed as Anthony) and, yes, that is really her singing.

The second video is one that somebody on YouTube compiled, which includes Barbara Stanwyck and William Holden as presenters at the Academy Awards, and then Barbara Stanwyck winning the Lifetime Achievement Award a few years later, after Holden had passed away. They were great friends, and I actually had tears streaming down my face when she expressed how much she missed him. Ugh!! Youtube took this one down at the request of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. What the heck is wrong with them, it's not like it's a copyrighted movie just let us see it for crying out loud. (Can you tell this one annoyed me?)

The Stanwyck Trilogy

I've been working on these all day (and night), and FINALLY, at 6:45am, I am finished! I actually did two other portraits of Barbara Stanwyck that I wasn't happy with before I ended up with these three.

Being that it is 6:45am, I am very, very sleepy. In my just-barely-awake condition, I really can't write the kind of post that Barbara Stanwyck deserves, so I'm going to just write when I wake up. But I didn't want to make you wait any longer to see the Stanwyck trilogy! Soooo here it is! Babs circa 1933, 1942 and 1955.

Coming soon...

March 11, 2009

I'm working on three paintings for my Barbara Stanwyck trilogy (yes, she is so good she deserves not one, not two, but three paintings) each representing different stages in her career. I actually finished the oldest Stanwyck tonight, but I don't want to post them until all three are finished.

She's my absolute favorite actress (I know I throw around the words "absolute favorite" and "all-time favorite" a lot, but trust me-- she is really my absolute favorite!) so I'll also be gushing about her films in a post to go with the art.

In the meantime--
what's your favorite Stanwyck movie? I can't really choose which is mine-- I think one of the reasons I am breaking her portraits up into three different career phases is because I have favorites from each stage, and can't choose which stage I like best! I love Night Nurse, The Miracle Woman and Ever in My Heart from her earliest films. I love Ball of Fire, Meet John Doe and Remember the Night from her late 30's early 40's films. And I love Clash by Night, Jeopardy and Witness to Murder from her later films.

Happy Birthday Keely Smith!

March 10, 2009

Keely Smith turned 77 yesterday! I love her music, but maybe even more I love her act. When she and Louis Prima did their stage act together, Keely was always completely poker faced. I've only been able to see one of their performances, in a Frank Sinatra retrospective on PBS, but I really wish somebody would find a bunch of archival footage from their shows and release it!

When I first became hooked on old movies, in 2000, I didn't have TCM yet and relied entirely on AMC for my classic film fix. Back then they actually played classic movies, and without commercial interruption. (I know, shocking!) One of the first classic films I ever saw was Hey Boy, Hey Girl starring Louis Prima and Keely Smith. For years now I've regretted that I didn't tape it at the time because I can't find it on DVD or VHS anywhere, and I'd love to see it again. It was very B-Movie-ish, but the song numbers were stellar, and I really loved the way Louis Prima and Keely Smith played off of each other. He was so wild and energetic, which played perfectly with her stiff mellow personality. I just love them! If you haven't heard the song "Banana Split for My Baby" yet, you should really seek it out. It's a really fun song, and since it's from the movie Hey Boy Hey Girl, it will give you a slight idea of how fun the movie was, too.

ps. Thank you so much to Princess Fire and Music of Fire and Music and Nicole at Classic Hollywood Nerd for awarding me the Premio Dardos award! You both have incredibly nifty blogs, and so it is quite an honor to have you pick me for the award. To read about the five blogs I passed the award to, you can click here.

Jane Wyman and Claudette Colbert

Jane Wyman is one of those actresses (including Joan Crawford and Ginger Rogers) who, in my opinion, fired their stylists when the 1950's rolled around. Search for Jane Wyman pictures on the internet and you will find two completely different people. There is 1940's Jane, sometimes blond sometimes brunette with big eyes and a very chic 40's hairstyle. Then there's the other Jane Wyman, of the 1950's. Her hair is always dark, and always she has these really short little curled bangs and somehow the hair on the side of her head resembles the shape of the Princess Lea do sans the buns. It's a very odd style, and yet it is consistent in almost every single film she made in the 1950's.

Yes, I know, I painted her with the hairstyle that I don't like as much. Here's the truth: I really don't think it's a flattering hairdo, and personally I'd never do that to my mane, but this hairstyle is REALLY fun to paint, and I think it makes for a more nifty image on canvas.

By the way, Jane really was an incredible actress. I had only seen her in Princess O'Rourke and a few of her B-comedies up until about two years ago when I discovered Johnny Belinda. Wow, was she good in that film! Jane also stars in one of my half favorite movies. I may have mentioned this earlier, but there are some movies that are
half fantastic, and half bad. As if the producers switched writers midstream. One of these half favorites of mine is Miracle in the Rain. The first half is fantastic! It's fun, sweet, romantic, well acted and well written. And then like clockwork, the halfway mark passed and all of a sudden it went downhill. Very, very strange. But I love watching the first 50 minutes or so anyway! Anyone else have a half favorite?

While I really love a lot of Claudette Colbert movies (especially It Happened One Night), my absolute favorite is Since You Went Away. I love WWII home front epics, like this one, Mrs. Miniver and The Best Years of Our Lives. Claudette Colbert's portrayal of an army wife, left at home during the war with two young daughters, is so moving. I really think she deserved an Oscar for her performance. Of course an extra reason to see the film is Monty Wooley... any movie with Monty Wooley is worth seeing!

I did another painting, but I'm still not 100% satisfied with it, so I'll do some touch ups and hopefully post that tomorrow. In case you're wondering-- it's Simone Simon. I did find a pretty good image of her, but my painting is just a tad bit off. I'm looking forward to writing about her, though-- especially her performance in one of my all-time favorite films, Mademoiselle Fifi.

Premio Dardos

March 08, 2009

Sarah from Cinema Splendor and Millie from Classic Forever both recently received the Premio Dardos award, and were so incredibly sweet and generous as to give me the award as well. You guys deserve it way more than I do, so congratulations again! I absolutely adore your blogs, and always anxiously check my dashboard each morning to see if you've posted anything new :)

The Dardos Award is given for cultural, literary, and personal values in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.The rules are simple:

1. Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.

2. Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

I've picked five blogs that I now follow religiously, and I hope you will too after you read about them here :)

1. Vivienne at the artist side of vivienne strauss. Besides getting me started blogging, encouraging me to do daily drawings, getting me hooked on flickr and generally being a great friend, Vivienne's artwork constantly wows me, and inspires me to be more creative on a daily basis. Her blog features her artwork and thoughts, and if I could bestow on her this award 100 times, it still wouldn't be enough.

2. Carrie at Classic Montgomery. Robert Montgomery has been one of my favorite actors forever, and I am so thrilled that somebody recognizes his talent and is dedicated to keeping his memory alive. That Carrie also writes amazing posts and keeps me updated on the latest Montgomery tv schedules is icing on the cake!

3. Cullen at Cineholla Collective. Cullen's writing is unbelievably superb and witty, and he chooses some of the most interesting films as his subjects. Lately I've especially enjoyed the late 1920's picks, which is a time period that interests me to no end. Cullen is also a graduate of the New School, soon to be my own alma mater :)

4. Elizabeth at Art by Elizabeth Bauman. Staring intently at one of Elizabeth's paintings, a story always unfolds. The lives of the people she's painted come to life before you, haunting you, enchanting you. Although Elizabeth also writes about the background of her pieces, which are usually based on old photographs, the paintings themselves speak volumes.

5. About a month ago when I received the Superior Scribbler Award, I picked Ginger at Asleep in New York as one of my recipients. I'm afraid somehow I jinxed her because she has only written two posts since then!! Nevertheless, seeing as how Ginger writes one of my favorite blogs, I am also going to give her the Premio Dardos award (I know she's received it from others as well, but she deserves it ten times over) She just wrote a fantastic review of one of my favorite films, My Foolish Heart. Please, Ginger-- write more!!!

Thanks again to Sarah and Millie! And even though I singled out these five people, everybody should know that if you are over on my "favorite sites & blogs list" I love you just as much :)

Peter Lorre

March 07, 2009

I decided to start doing some paintings of supporting stars (yes, I know, this isn't a painting... I felt like sketching tonight instead. But tomorrow, when the painting bug is sure to bite, this sketch will magically appear on my blog transformed into a pop art painting) Anyway! I decided a long time ago that I was going to do this series, and I have the most incredibly fantastic stupendous name for the series-- actually my dad came up with it-- thanks Daddie! -- are you ready? It's really good!!! First Rate Second Bananas!!

Now you may be thinking to yourself, "second bananas... supporting stars... but what about M and Mad Love and the Mr. Moto series? Peter Lorre was no second banana, he was a STAR!" and you are very right. But in my book, you don't have to be one or the other, you can be both. While Peter Lorre WAS the star in a huge amount of films, he is probably better known for his outstanding supporting roles, like Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon, Ugarte in Casablanca and Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace. In these films, he was really a first rate second banana.

My personal favorite of Peter Lorre's supporting performances is as Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace. Arsenic was actually one of the very first movies I saw after my conversion to classic film. Not long after becoming enamored with the movie, my parents treated me to tickets to see a live stage version of the movie. I've seen only a handful of theatrical versions of my favorite movies, and usually I am very underwhelmed. I just expect the actors on stage to be as good as the actors on film and that is a really, really hard expectation to meet. At Arsenic and Old Lace, I was mildly satisfied with the lead actors, but the absence of Peter Lorre created a gaping hole in the production. While his part in the film is relatively minor, this play made me realize how much his presence means to the overall story. Without him, it just wasn't nearly as good.

Peter Lorre's name is barely known today outside of classic film devotees like you and I. If he is known, it is merely as the pop-eyed guy in Casablanca. Unfortunately, this one role puts him at an advantage over hundreds of other character actors who are almost entirely forgotten. Edna May Oliver. Fay Bainter. William Demarest. Roscoe Karns. Jessie Ralph. May Robson. Eric Blore. Eugene Pallette. Charles Coburn. We may know these names and the faces that go with them, but not many others do. Hopefully my First Rate Second Banana series will help aquaint people "on the outside" with these wonderful personalities. If I can convince one person to become a fan of Eric Blore, my life has been worthwhile :)

Sunday in New York {The Apartment}

March 06, 2009

I can't actually pinpoint what it is about this movie that has me so enchanted, but every time I see it, I laugh harder and enjoy myself more. There are three main actors in the movie: Jane Fonda, Rod Taylor and Cliff Robertson. Jane Fonda plays a young innocent who has broken up with her boyfriend and come into NYC from Albany for a long weekend at her brother's apartment. Her brother is Cliff Robertson, an airline pilot whose love life makes for a very interesting and entertaining second storyline. The hilarity ensues when Jane meets Rod Taylor. Up until this movie, I had only seen him in The Birds, which was a very serious dramatic part. In this movie, he has the goofy screwball comedy talents of Cary Grant. I'm surprised that he wasn't cast in more parts like this, because he absolutely excels at comedy. The premise of the story seems a lot like what could have been a Rock Hudson/Doris Day feature, but as much as I love that pair, I am so glad that this cast was chosen. It actually started me wondering what some of Doris Day's movies would have been like with this cast. Picture it: That Touch of Mink with Jane Fonda and Rod Taylor. Can't you see it?

Anyway... the main reason I am posting... THE BACHELOR PAD! I am a real girly girl, but somehow I have a real fondness for cool sixties bachelor apartments, and this one in particular. This is my dream home. Seriously, even if I end up with a farm in Vermont, I'll remodel it to look like this apartment. I might change some of the colors and add more artwork (I collect way too much art for the sparse walls in this pad) but the basic structure will be exactly the same. So may I present, Cliff Robertson's apartment in Sunday in New York:

These shots really show off the staircase.
Who doesn't love spiral staircases? (Besides Dorothy McGuire)

My dream-- a gigantic library!! I'd prefer one more on the scale
of the one in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, but this will do...

The bar. You have to step down to get to the bar, a feature I
just adore. Split levels really strike my fancy.

The fireplace & great art arrangement. I love when pictures are
hung off-center and grouped like this.
I love the really tall windows and that couch is to die for!

The bedroom. Cliff has a penthouse, so he has the luxury of
a huge skylight over his bed. Since I like to sleep in until the
afternoon, that shade will most likely always be closed.
But the feature is nice, nonetheless.

The bench for talking on the phone.
I don't care if I am a phone-avoider who absolutely hates picking up the
receiver, even to call in Chinese Food, I am getting that
red phone and phone bench.

Shutters to close off the bedroom from the downstairs at night.
I love this feature so much. I have a canopy bed from
ikea (not frilly, very squared and dark wood)
and I actually did a design for shutters on the bed to
keep my cats off during the day. I never followed
through because I decided against drilling holes into
my bed frame, but I still love the idea.

Other bachelor apartments that I'll post pictures of (but slightly smaller reviews since I'm not nearly as obsessed with these films as I am with Sunday in New York) include Boys Night Out, Come Blow Your Horn, The Tender Trap and a bachelorette apartment in Indiscreet.

EDIT: I've since turned this into a series, and you can view all of the Bachelor Apartment posts right here.

Natalie Wood

March 04, 2009

by Sarah at Cinema Splendor
Guest Blogger

Why Natalie Wood? Not only was she completely gorgeous, but she was a terrific dramatic actress and had one of the best personalities in the crazy celebrity world.

I first saw her in Rebel Without a Cause. I didn’t like her at all in the beginning; I didn’t like her hair. However, I liked her more and more throughout the rest of the movie, and after it ended I clicked on the IMDB page and read the mini-bio’s on the 3 main stars. I soon learned that she had a huge career and had a fascinating story; she married the same guy twice (Robert Wagner), had this crazy domineering stage mother, starred opposite some of the biggest names in show biz, and had a truly unfortunate death, being taken by something she had feared her whole life.

I went to the library and picked up the bio by Gavin Lambert. I was sucked in, and I guess that’s how my obsession started. I then read Natasha by Suzanne Finstad, which is my preferred book on her. In Natasha, you read about her double life; one as her real self, Natasha Gurdin, and the other as Natalie Wood, the movie star. She had a bone protrusion on her wrist from an accident on The Green Promise, which ended up with her nearly drowning in the water set up for the scene. After the accident, she acquired a lifelong fear of water. She also wore a large bracelet on her left wrist for the rest of her life to hide the protrusion. She called it “the badge” and Natalie Wood was almost never seen without it.

Her performance in Love With the Proper Stranger stays with you. She plays a young woman who gets pregnant after a one night stand, opposite Steve McQueen. The abortion scene is haunting with a boatload of emotion, and the way Steve wants to protect her is one of the most compassionate things I’ve seen in a movie. I could go on and on about how great she was in that movie, but you really need to see her in it to understand what I’m saying. What can I say? She was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

This is my opinion, but I think she was a better dramatic actress than a comedic actress. My favorite dramas of hers are Splendor in the Grass, Love With the Proper Stranger, Inside Daisy Clover and This Property is Condemned. Again, with these movies, she displayed something that you would have to see yourself to understand. West Side Story is also an overall favorite, but I count that in a class by itself ;)

Shirley MacLaine

Here's Shirley MacLaine--- I really like the background color I used in this one:

Does anyone know where I can find a good picture of Simone Simon? I really want to paint her, but it seems like the only pictures I can find she is either engulfed in shadows galore and you can't see her face, or the image is thumbnail size, like 80x80 and I can't see it well enough. I tried doctormacro, any suggestions?

Gary Cooper

I did an awful lot of painting today, and, unfortunately, I am not too happy with a lot of the results. I did five pop art portraits- Gary Cooper, Myrna Loy, Natalie Wood, Shirley MacLaine and Deborah Kerr. I'm not entirely happy with Myrna Loy or Deborah Kerr so far, hence their absense from this blog post. I'll try to do some touch ups tomorrow.

Natalie Wood isn't uploaded yet because she is in reserve for my first guest blog post by Sarah at Cinema Splendor!
And as for Shirley... she's still drying. Maybe I'll be able to post her before I go to sleep.

Gary Cooper... I did post his portait, because I'm about 95% pleased with it, and because I really like Gary Cooper. Last night while I was painting, TCM was playing Meet John Doe and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and I was in Gary Cooper heaven. Honestly, he was made for those roles. He deserved his Oscars for High Noon and Sgt. York, but I really think he deserved nods for these two films even more. They are the only two films he made with Frank Capra, but I really wish they had teamed up more often. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was supposed to be a follow up to Mr. Deeds, and I really wonder what it would have been like if Capra had his way...

Funny anecdote about the painting: I often bore my family with details about my painting woes, like when I just can't get somebody's nose right, or when I accidently plop my arm in my palette. Well, last night Gary Cooper's right eye was giving me a lot of trouble, so I relayed the story to my family this morning. Everything sounded perfectly normal to me (art-speak) as I said, "and I had to take out Gary Cooper's eye about five times" - it literally had my brother in stiches, and I couldn't figure out what I had said that was so funny :)

Tomorrow or Thursday I'll go back to actually writing posts about the actors/actresses I'm painting or drawing. For now, I hope you don't just mind the images without words!
Looks like Shirley's dry now, so I'll scan and post in a minute!

Got Classic Movies?

March 02, 2009

I had my Photoshop class final this week. We had to design advertisements, and I decided to do take offs on the Got Milk? series. My idea was "what if Got Milk? advertised in TCM's Now Playing guide?" This was my result:

On Joan Crawford, I did the colorization, but I'm still getting the hang of it. Her hairline was a pain in the derrierre, and I still don't think I got it right. In case you can't read my little taglines, here they are:

John Wayne: Drink your milk young fella or I'll shoot ya.
Groucho: I am known for my thick black mustache. But I'm more proud of my white one.
Joan Crawford: On screen I stand head and shoulders above everyone else. How did I get so strong? Milk.

If I have time I'll still do a painting or a sketch tonight and upload it later, but right now I'm so worn out from spending the last few hours working on these!

The Good Neighbors

March 01, 2009

Tad bit off the "silents and talkies" subject, but.....

This is my little tribute to The Good Neighbors, which is now one of my all-time favorite tv shows. It's available for instant watch on Netflix if you aren't familiar with it (or want to revisit it over and over and over).

It's a British comedy about a couple who chuck everything to become self sufficient, raising chickens and pigs in their suburban backyard, growing leeks on the front lawn. It's absolutely hilarious and so much fun!

I really think that if you like classic movies it isn't a big leap to British comedies. They have a lot of the same elements that make old films great; the great dialogue, the British accent that adds an air of sophistication, and killer comedic timing. In my humble opinion, The Good Neighbors is one of the best examples of the Brit Com at its best.