My adventure in time travel, my weekend in NYC, my small celebrity encounter and I won an award!

May 29, 2009

time travel

Last weekend I had a three day art show across from Washington Square Park in New York. I'm an awful procrastinator, so on Friday night I had a million things left to do to prepare.

Around 12:00am I went up to my bedroom to start making business cards. I remember the time exactly because I had on a Farrah Fawcett documentary on MSNBC, which was airing from 12am- 2am, and it had just started when I went to my room. I spent about an hour making business cards, and then started assembling a binder of images of my flappers to take to the show. At 1:40am I decided to take my shower. I specifically remember that it was 1:40am because I thought to myself, "if you just wait 20 more minutes you can see the end of the documentary... oh well, it will be on again, just go take a shower." So I skipped the last 20 minutes and went in the bathroom.

I take pretty long showers, and I know I was at least 45 minutes, probably an hour. So imagine how shocked I was when I got out of the shower and saw that the bathroom clock said 1:40am! I thought it must have stopped, so I hurried up and ran back to my room, where the clock said -- 1:40am!! I was POSITIVE that 1:40am had already passed an hour ago!

Well, I thought to myself, if it was in fact 1:40am now, that would mean that the Farrah Fawcett documentary would still be on, right? It was airing from 12am-2am. So I turned on the tv and the documentary had ended! Something else was on! But the little "info" button still told me that Farrah's Story was on.

Either I time traveled back to 1:40am, the clocks all turned back an hour, or I got stuck in some kind of little time warp. All I have to say is.... Come on, universe! If you were going to send me back in time couldn't it have been 80 years instead of 1 hour?!

my weekend

I spent the better part of Saturday morning relaying my time travel story to all those who would listen, before settling down into my art show routine. My mom was sick last weekend so my dad and my brother and I attempted to do the show ourselves (harder than that sounds since my mom is the brains of the outfit) In between the many snack runs and bathroom breaks (the manager at the Cosi's near my show must absolutely despise me & my family!) the show was definitely a success. Much better than the last two so far this year-- I'm hoping this means the economy is improving!

Here's a picture of my display from the show. I have a much smaller display at this one, so the giant wall of pop art wouldn't fit :(

When business slowed down on Monday, me and my brother took a walk through the park and took some snapshots for me to post here. I love New York so much, not least of all because of the little pockets of serenity like Washington Square Park. It's just so peaceful and pretty.

This car was from England, and it was parked
outside of the art club where I had to drop off my
artwork for jurying. I love how you can see the
Empire State Building in the background.

my celebrity encounter

I watch new televisions shows so rarely that the stars from all the hit tv shows could be my customers and I'd really have no clue who they were. However, there is one current tv show that I do watch, and cross my heart, I saw the star at my show this weekend.

Stacy London from What Not to Wear was walking around the show looking at the art, and she stopped at my table for about five minutes. I'm not the type to go up and say anything (especially after I saw a girl bombard her only a few seconds earlier with "OMG I LOVE YOUR SHOW!!! Ahhh!! -- I did NOT want to be that girl! lol) So I just watched intently from behind my table. She said "Oh, I love Eloise!" whilst looking at my flapper doodles, held up my Theda Bara painting to show her friend, and (I thought this was neat) actually knew who Barbara Stanwyck was! So anyway, just the idea that she liked my art, since I'm a fan of her show, was pretty neat and, I thought, worth mentioning on the blog :)

I won an award!

Perhaps the most exciting highlight of my weekend-- I won fourth place in Oil/Acrylic!! Yay!! I enter the art competition at this show every year, and when I have to go pick up my artwork from jurying, I'm like Jean Arthur-- I don't have butterflies in my stomach-- I have wasps!

I walked up to the table, and gave my name, practically holding my breath waiting for her to say "oh, you didn't win, go pick up your artwork." but that's not what she said! She said I won a prize!! I got a ribbon, and a giant ego boost and went back to my booth, a lot more awake and happy than I had been a few minutes before!

The winning painting is called "The Kiss" (Here's a picture of the original-- my pun is that instead of two people kissing, it's a Hershey's Kiss) And it's 22kt gold leafing and acrylic on masonite.

my future

Ginger at Asleep in New York did this online MASH quiz (remember them from when you were younger? I used to practically hold my breath hoping my crush would be picked from the list of husbands, as if MASH would actually determine the outcome of my life!) and I decided to take a stab at it, too. Surprisingly, my future seems pretty nifty! (not usually how these used to turn out for me back in the day!)

Ginger ended up in Paris with Richard Conte. Not too shabby. However, I believe most of the ladies will agree that I hit the jackpot. Yes, Dana Andrews. And I played the game fair, too, including Randolph Scott (yuck) as my "for the love of grapefruit, please don't let it be him" option.

I also included silly choices for professions too (and was actually rooting for a different one besides artist.. let's see if you can tell which one I was hoping for) Artist, Professional Sidewalk Chalk artist, President of the United States and Professional Grapefruit Juice Drinker.

You should really try this thing out, it's a fun flashback to the days of unrealistic crushes (I know what you're thinking, and for your information, Dana Andrews, albeit not living, is totally realistic) and a nice break from the monotony of the daily grind, or something like that.

Make sure if you do this to list your answers on your blog so everyone can see! And since it was Ginger's idea, I'm going to graciously go link to my list in her comments.. (Well, and rub it in that I got Dana Andrews...)

ps. Millie-- Keep in mind that it is cheating if you write Dana Andrews in all five slots. Might I recommend a nice helping of Randolph Scott ;)

Charley Grapewin

May 28, 2009

Today I have guest art on Richard's blog, Riku Writes. It's kind of the opposite of my guest bloggers (instead of someone sending me their post for me to do accompanying art for my blog, I sent Richard the art and he did an accompanying post for his blog!)

You can read his fantastic post about the wonderful character actor Charley Grapewin here.

Ricardo Cortez

May 22, 2009

Ricardo Cortez is one of those great 1930's stars that is close to being entirely forgotten today, and it's a darn shame. I always look forward to seeing him on screen, whether he's playing a gangster, romantic lead or heavy dramatic role, he is always excellent.

I did a bit of research whilst looking for his picture today.. here are some tidbits: He was actually born Jacob Krantz in Vienna, before he was transformed into Spanish born, Latin lover Ricardo Cortez, in an attempt by studio heads to bring competition to Rudolph Valentino. He was the only star to ever have billing over Greta Garbo, in her first American film. Tragically, his wife, actress Alma Rubens, died in 1931 after they had only been married for about five years.

If you ever get a chance to see Symphony of Six Million, make sure you do. I just watched it this evening and I think it may just be Ricardo Cortez's best performance. Instead of being typecast in a typical gangster or Latin lover role, he plays a Jewish doctor from the slums who rises up to become a famous, wealthy doctor despite his own desire to run a humble clinic in the area he was raised. This role really gives Cortez the chance to shine, and show his acting chops, and I highly recommend it.

On a slightly more racy note, Cortez is also in one of my all-time favorite pre-codes, Midnight Mary (one of the most blatantly pre-code pre-codes there are.) Here's a link to a scene from the film-- scroll ahead to 8:00 to see what I'm talking about :)

Glenn Ford {180 tag}

May 20, 2009

Since I started blogging earlier this year, I've seen tons of awards and tags go around, about 90% of which have nothing to do with film (which seems to be the tie that binds most of our blogs) -- so I decided to start a tag myself... and this time, it has to do with film! And also, I'm really curious to see what everyones response to this will be :)

So this is the 180 tag. Name an actor, actress or director that you started out despising (or just really not liking) but ended up loving. Or vice versa, someone you started out loving and ended up despising (or just really not liking) -- and explain why.

For me? Glenn Ford.

Ever since I started liking classic films, I would turn off the tv the minute I saw him. There was just something about him that bothered me, but I couldn't put my finger on it. The mere fact that he had a career in film puzzled me-- why on earth did producers hire him? His appeal was completely beyond my comprehension.

Then in 2007 I saw The Mating of Millie. I was cleaning my bedroom, and I had been watching the film that was on before it. My room being quite a disaster area, the remote was nowhere to be found, so I just reluctantly left the tv on, trying my best to avoid eye contact with the screen when Glenn Ford was on camera. And then something strange happened... he wasn't that bad. I actually (grits teeth) liked him! I ended up sitting on my disheveled bed and watched the rest of the film, my brain tied in knots with the simultaneous thoughts of "but he's Glenn Ford" and "I hope it's on again soon since I didn't tape it!"

That night I had a dream that I lived next door to Glenn Ford, and he was the sweetest man on the planet. (Yes, I'm one of those people that is influenced by how I dream. Nice in my dreams? Must be a darling in real life!) Before I knew it, I was actually highlighting his films in Now Playing. When I missed A Stolen Life on TCM I nearly cried.

He's still not in my top five, or even my top ten, but he is somewhere on the favorites list now, as opposed to the "Gosh, I can't STAND this person" list (see: Randolph Scott & Marlon Brando, who have not budged from the list since I started it in 2000)

SOOOO.... now let's spread this around the little blogging circle. Each person tags 4 people. I tag:

Raquelle of Out of the Past
Millie of Classic Forever
Lolita of Lolita's Classics
Elizabeth of Oh by Jingo! Oh by Gee!

If you guys want to add anything to the tag, feel free :D

Gail Patrick

May 19, 2009

by C. K. Dexter Haven
Guest Blogger

Have you ever seen a movie and find that it’s one of the second-tier stars who gets your attention, and that you find yourself waiting for their next fleeting appearance onscreen? This happened to me years ago when I saw Gail Patrick (1911-1980) in the 1936 Screwball Comedy, My Man Godfrey. This is the film that introduced me to the Golden Age’s definitive “Other Woman.” Patrick’s best-known roles have her trading deliciously catty barbs with Hollywood’s greatest stars, most notably in this film, and also in Stage Door (1937), opposite Ginger Rogers.

In My Man Godfrey, her most-famous role, Gail plays Cornelia Bullock, one of the daughters of the impossibly-wealthy Alexander Bullock. The entire family is an out-of-touch rabble afflicted with having too much money during the Great Depression. I don’t want to spoil the entire plot, but what I like about Gail’s role is that she’s the only character who comes full circle and ends up growing as a person. Cornelia is completely different at the end of the film than she was at the beginning. Of course, I didn’t catch on to this plot development until many years and several “Godfrey” viewings later.

From the first time I saw Gail Patrick--I dubbed her the Deco Dame-- I was enraptured and intrigued by the actress who was often characterized as a huffy, stand-offish, statuesque beauty; I’d add that she had a great speaking voice, too. She was someone I sought out in any 1930s film I was watching and I would perk up at the sight of her name in the credits. I didn’t see her in many movies, but when I did it was an event. You see, Gail was the first “bad girl” that I had a cinematic crush on. Normally, I tend to prefer the girl next door types, like Ginger Rogers or Myrna Loy, but Gail changed the dimensions of that daydream. There was a radiant beauty, but I sensed that Gail possessed a keen intelligence. This was merely an assumption on my part, but it would turn out to be true, given her post-acting career accomplishments.

My Favorite Wife (1940) is another of Gail’s better-known films. Gail’s ability to barely contain her annoyance at Cary Grant’s kids’ piano recital is her most memorable comedic moment. However, she managed to make me sympathize with her because she really wasn’t a bad person. We’re supposed to want Cary Grant to be able to get away from Gail, and so the flawed script had to make Irene Dunne more desirable to him, so Gail was sacrificed on the altar of “The Hollywood Ending.”

My favorite Gail Patrick role is in Love Crazy (1941). She’s teamed again with her My Man Godfrey co-star, William Powell. Here Gail plays a lighthearted variation of her “other woman” persona in the role of Isobel Grayson, who’s more of a playful vixen than a catty ex-girlfriend. Isobel has moved into ex-fiancée Powell’s apartment building and of course she causes trouble, if unknowingly, with Powell and his wife of four years, played by Myrna Loy—and on their wedding anniversary. Of all her movies where she’s a supporting player, Love Crazy is the role that lets Gail be bubbly, fun, flirty, yet mischievous. She steals every one of the few scenes she’s in, and has one of the best lines in the whole movie, when she’s covering up for William Powell when the latter is trapped in her shower.

Gail’s movie career ended in 1947. She started her own children’s boutique that catered to the Hollywood clientele she knew so well. However, her most significant off-screen accomplishment was serving as the producer of the Perry Mason television series. It was Gail’s suggestion that Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, and William Talman be cast in the long-running courtroom drama. She was close friends with Perry Mason author Erle Stanley Gardner and he trusted her decisions. In fact, Gardner only allowed the show to exist if Gail would produce it! It would seem as though the tough-as-nails persona Gail honed onscreen also extended to her real-life business career.

Gail Patrick would die from leukemia in July, 1980. She had been both a respected actress and a powerful producer in her extended entertainment career. I still get that sense of excitement every time I watch My Man Godfrey. Of course, there’s the nostalgia when I think of the first time I discovered Gail in My Man Godfrey, but now there’s that newfound knowledge that she imbued her characters with a drive, determination, and intelligence, that is plainly evident in all of her performances.

*The drawing at the top is marker on white paper, mounted on black paper.

Two years ago today, I met my cat.

May 17, 2009

For my brother's 13th birthday, on May 17, 2007, he asked me, my mom & dad to volunteer with him at the local no-kill shelter. I was recovering from deviated septum surgery, and it was the first day I was actually leaving the house. I felt totally miserable. Before we left the house, my mom set down some ground rules. No matter how much we love the cats, none of them are coming home. Do not ask for one as a birthday present. Do not get mad when I say "no." Period.

So naturally, my mom fell in love with a cat, and wanted to bring it home. This particular cat broke two of my mom's other ground rules for cat-adoption: we will never have a light-furred cat, and we will never have a long-haired cat. Period. But as soon as my mom picked her up, and held her in her arms, all bets were off.

Bringing her home was such a delight -- she kept me company for the next week or so that I was relegated to sleeping on the couch, often sleeping on my stomach or my back, and greeting me with a loud chirp when I woke up. Having her company for the following week of recovery was something I'll always cherish.

When we first met Hypatia (who was named Sara at the time) she had just been brought back to the cottage after spending a few months in a foster home, and we were told that she was about three years old. Her and another cat, Sadie, were found in the winter with matted fur, starving to death. Her foster parent, Carol, told us that she was one of worst cases they had ever brought in, she was so sick. The day we met her, she was quiet as a mouse, shy and frightened.

Two years later, we've been through so much together. She isn't as shy and quiet as she was that day, rather she is one of the most talkative cats on the planet. And she isn't three years old.. more like nine or ten. We found that out last February when she completely stopped eating and started hiding under the bed all day. Assuming that she had cancer or FIP, our vet scheduled an ultrasound to find the root of the problem. That's when we learned that she had a small benign growth on her kidney that is only found in cats nine and over. Luckily, though, it wasn't cancer or FIP. She had stopped eating because of a severe case of gingivitis, for which we give her monthly shots (and possibly may have to have her teeth pulled soon.) But I'll take gingivitis over cancer any day.

I'm actually allergic to cats, so for the first 8 months or so, Hypatia was not allowed in my bedroom. But after her health scare in 2008, I started letting her in, and she's made my room her sanctuary ever since. She has her own pillow on my bed (though she still steals mine most of the time) she keeps me company while I'm working, and follows me everywhere. When I get up in the morning and go to my laptop to check my emails, she follows me and gets cozy near my feet. At night when I watch movies, she keeps me company. If I get up to go to the bathroom, she waits outside of the door until I come out. She's become my little shadow.

She's the sweetest cat in the universe, and I just had to share her story with you. If you're like me, and you just love cats, then I'm sure you understand my motherly gushing ;)

Hypatia at the Kitty Cottage on May 17, 2007

To see more pictures of Hypatia and my other
darling, Chloe, click here to view their set in
my flickr photostream.

*Song of the week coming up later tonight, with a new theme that I'm going to have for the summer-- and, surprise surprise, it will actually have art with it this time! I know, shocking!*

Crazy Eights {I am ready for my close up}

May 15, 2009

I was tagged by Graciebird.

8 Things I look forward to:

1. Finalizing my DVDs
2. Checking my e-mails in the morning
3. Dinner, as long as its pasta or pizza or something w/o meat
(When it is meat, I need to cook a separate meal for myself since I'm a Vegetarian)
4. Nighttime when my cat gets cozy near my head.
5. The end of allergy season
6. Overhauling my bedroom
7. Checking the snail mail in the afternoon
8. The first cold, refreshing glass of grapefruit juice in the a.m.

8 Things I did yesterday:

1. Created a new blog to showcase my favorite artists, spiffy
2. Watched The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance
3. Helped my dad with his t-shirt business
4. Got some things ready for an art show this weekend
5. Worked on a commissioned painting
6. Reluctantly made my own dinner since burgers were on the menu,
I ended up eating a combination of beans, rice, leftover pasta & green beans. yum.
7. Read some of God Bless You Mr. Rosewater (Kurt Vonnegut)
8. Went to the arts & crafts store

8 Things I wish I could do:

1. Move out of NJ, pronto (I disdain it!)
2. Go back in time to the 1920's or 30's
3. Learn the harmonica
4. Have Dana Andrews time travel to 2009.
5. Travel the world on an ocean liner (scared to fly!)
6. Cook some kind of vegetarian dish that tastes like fish. It's the one thing I miss, and nobody sells fake-fish in the US, that I know of.
7. Make lots of money so my parents could retire.
8. Have a mute button for my brother.

8 TV Shows I watch:

1. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
2. You Bet Your Life
3. The Good Neighbors
4. What Not to Wear
5. Get Smart
6. I Dream of Jeannie
7. Bewitched
8. As Time Goes By

8 People to tag:

This is going around quickly, so I might be double tagging..

1. Elizabeth (Oh By Jingo! Oh By Gee!)
2. Matthew (Movietone News)
3. Ginger (Asleep in NY)
4. Richard (Riku Writes)
5. Genevieve (Classic Film Oasis)
6. Alicia (1000 Follies)
7. John (Robert Frost's Banjo)
8. Casey (Noir Girl)

off subject { J.D. Salinger }

May 08, 2009

In jury duty today I was re-reading two of the short stories in Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger, my second favorite short story collection (1st favorite goes to Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut) 

First I re-read Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut, which is the story that "My Foolish Heart" was loosely based upon, and which I love to read over and over and over. 

Then I re-read De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period. I'm not sure if you are familiar with this story, so I'll give you a little background- An art student living in NYC sees an ad for one of those mail-order art schools (send us your art & we'll have a real artist critique it for you) in Montreal, and applies immediately-- seriously padding his resume and dropping names left and right. (Picasso is his oldest family friend, dont'cha know?)

When he arrives in Montreal and meets his employer, Mr. Yoshoto, he is ridiculously nervous and eager to please him and this situation makes for the most hilarious paragraph ever. (Well, maybe not ever, but it did have me trying, and failing, to contain my laughter in the middle of a very quiet courtroom) 

He started to apologize for the fact that there were no chairs in his son's room--only floor cushions--but I quickly gave him to believe that for me this was little short of a godsend. (In fact, I think I said I hated chairs. I was so nervous that if he had informed me that his son's room was flooded, night and day, with a foot of water, I probably would have let out a little cry of pleasure. I probably would have said that I had a rare foot disease, one that required my keeping my feet wet eight hours daily.)

Maybe it's just me, but I cannot stop laughing when I read this. I can picture it so vividly in my mind! Reading De Daumier Smith's Blue Period and Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut got me to thinking about J.D. Salinger's decision to refuse selling his stories to Hollywood.  Apparently, My Foolish Heart was not what he had in mind at all when he wrote Uncle Wiggly (though it's one of my favorite films!) and, so upset was he, that he decided to never again let Hollywood make one of his stories into a movie.  I think this is a darn shame. 

Here's why: if, IF, J.D. Salinger ever changes his mind, or if his estate changes this rule after he's gone, the movies will be made in present day Hollywood, with present day actors and actresses. Nobody today could do justice to his stories like they could have in the 1940's or the 1950's. Okay, so he didn't like My Foolish Heart. Then try selling one to a different studio; request a specific director! His stubbornness may have cost the world a few really fantastic films.

I for one would never go to see a modern Salinger movie, not if you paid me a million dollars. (Okay, maybe a million, but no less!) Since the chance at seeing one of his films made the right way is long gone, I'll have to be content to imagine his characters in my minds eye, which, I guess, isn't so bad after all.

** The picture of the chairs behind the crossed out mark was taken by my brother, Kyle. It's a beautiful picture of chairs that he saw on a hillside in Vermont. Please take a look at the original (before I photoshopped all over it) here**

Robert Montgomery

May 06, 2009

1. Ronald Colman
2. Charles Boyer
3. Robert Montgomery

These three are my top three favorite actors -- after them it just skips to #4... no #2, no #3. Just three people tied for #1. In fact, they aren't even in the order I just listed above. If there was a javascript tool for me to have them automatically shuffled every five minutes on this blog, I'd use it, because it is seriously a three way tie.

You might be thinking that these men are incredibly different -- a Frenchman, a Brit and a New Yorker. But they all have a very suave debonair quality, matched with a truckload of talent that makes them top all others, in my book at least.

My favorite Robert Montgomery films are from his early days at MGM in the 1930's, when he was often teamed with Norma Shearer (LOVE Private Lives!) Joan Crawford or Madge Evans. (Although my two favorite of his films are actually from 1936 and 1941)

You're going to kill me, but my favorite Robert Montgomery film that I'm about to gush about is NOT on DVD, and it is NOT coming up on TCM in the next few months! Ah! Why would I do such a thing? Well, I'm sorry, but I love the film so darn much that I just can't help it! Just keep your eyes peeled for it coming out on DVD or playing on TCM because you do not want to miss it!

Piccadilly Jim is a fantastic comedy about a cartoonist who becomes famous by mocking his father's potential in-laws, American hillbillies who made it rich selling rags. The film stars Montgomery, Madge Evans (highly underrated actress, and one of Montgomery's best co-stars, by the way) Frank Morgan, Grant Mitchell, and the oh-so-wonderful Eric Blore. Blore utters one of my all time favorite lines in any movie EVER in this film...

"That leaves me in a state of indifference bordering on the supernatural"

Isn't that stupendous?! Gosh, I love this movie. It has the perfect combination of verbal and slapstick humor, and an impeccable cast that knows how to deliver a zinger or partake in a pratfall like they were born to do it. And hey, it's about an artist! That's always a plus :)

Just so I don't leave you hanging with an insatiable appetite for a Montgomery comedy, my other favorite is Here Comes Mr. Jordan, a hilarious fantasy/comedy from 1941. It IS available on DVD, and has one of my other favorite lines, but this one, alas, is only funny in the context of the film. If you watch it, pay special attention for the line "stay out of my bathroom" and you will know why I find it so funny! This film also has a spectacular cast -- Evelyn Keyes, Claude Rains, Edward Everett Horton, Halliwell Hobbes, John Emery & Rita Johnson, all favorites of mine, each one of them.

If you have TCM, do yourself a favor and record every single Robert Montgomery movie that comes on, whether you want to see it or not. Just record it and save it for later if you have to... they don't show his films very often (except for "They Were Expendable", which they seem to show almost every day) and not many are on DVD. Trust me, it will come in handy if ever a very nice blogger kindly suggests you watch a fantastic Montgomery movie that isn't on DVD or scheduled to be on TCM... I'm just saying...

To keep up to date on Robert Montgomery tv listings, and find out much more about the man than I could ever tell you, please visit Classic Montgomery, one of my favorite blogs. It is devoted entirely to the Earl of Hollywood himself, Robert Montgomery.

One more thing... I love the way he dances, with one arm kind of bent in mid-air. You have to see this...

The YouTube video was created by Jonas at

Mary Astor

May 05, 2009


 Alicia from 1000 follies just wrote a fantastic post about Mary Astor. It's not too long, so if you have a few seconds, please go take a look when you get a chance :)

I promise you won't be disappointed!

Elizabeth Montgomery

Fathers and daughters both acting is, it seems, relatively common in Hollywood. Henry and Jane Fonda, Michael, Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave, John Drew and Drew Barrymore, Charlie and Geraldine Chaplin, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and the list goes on and on...

But my favorite Dad/Daughter pairs are John and Hayley Mills, and Robert and Elizabeth Montgomery. What separates these pairs from the others, at least in my own life, is that I discovered the daughters before the dads. Elizabeth Montgomery and Hayley Mills were my favorite actresses when I was young-- I didn't even know that they had inherited their acting genes from their marvelous fathers until I was in my late teens.

Since I've already painted John and Hayley Mills, it seems that Robert and Elizabeth Montgomery are up next! Here is my Elizabeth Montgomery post-- Robert will be posted in a little bit...


Like most people, Elizabeth Montgomery will always be "Samantha Stevens" in my mind. Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie were my favorite television shows (and Clarissa Explains it All) -- I watched Nick at Nite and Block Party Summer religiously. I was nine years old when Elizabeth Montgomery passed away. I was still so young at the time, and I was absolutely devastated. I can remember Block Party Summer did a Bewitched marathon, and, if my memory serves me correctly, Linda Ellerbee did a special on Nick News to explain what happened. At the time, I didn't understand that these were old shows -- Elizabeth Montgomery was still only about 30 years old in my nine year old brain. Reading her biography today, I found out that she was only 62 when she passed away-- and had found out about the cancer only a few weeks beforehand. It was so incredibly sad to read...

Luckily, the complete Bewitched series is now on DVD, so Samantha Stevens will always be available at a moments notice. Just twitch your nose...

My one problem with Bewitched, and I'm sure there will be hot contention about this, was the Darren switch. I adore Dick York to no end; he is the sweetest actor ever. But Dick Sargent? Did they just pick him because his first name was also Dick? He didn't have the "I hate it when you use your powers but I love you so much anyway" charm that Dick York did. It was more like "will you quit using those stupid powers already?" -- very brash and un-cute.

But the real highlight of show, regardless of which Dick was Darren, was Elizabeth Montgomery. She had an effortless style of acting, very cool and calm even when her character was dealing with a very prickly situation.

Some of my favorite episodes starred Samantha Stevens' cousin Serena (Elizabeth Montgomery in a dark wig) -- much like I Dream of Jeannie, the dark haired look alike is conniving, devilish and sneaky, but SO much fun! When I watch the episodes now, I think that the Serena episodes were probably the most fun for Elizabeth Montgomery to play!

Elizabeth Montgomery also made several films, made for TV movies and documentaries - and every single production she was a part of was all the better because of her. But to me, she will always forever be Samantha Stevens, the lovable witch who made me wish OH so badly that I could learn to twitch my nose.

William S. Hart

May 02, 2009

by Mykal Banta

Guest Blogger

The face was long – a marble slope that revealed nothing but strict judgment or, perhaps, brief consideration. The mouth - a thin, cold slash under the extensive, eagle-blade nose. The eyes suggested a bloodless cruelty – small and hard as black flint; backlit with terrible sadness; eyes that never looked sideways – instead the face would turn as a single weapon, casting wintery attention full strength. It was the face of a doomed centurion from one of Shakespeare’s histories, a choir boy aflame with too much faith, or a murderer.

If William S. Hart, the great silent-era cowboy, considered you trustworthy, you might see loyalty in that face – a sense of personal duty. If he didn’t trust you, he wanted to kill you. The eyes went squinty, glinting in blackness, and the face turned like a gun rotating on its turret. When those tiny pupils dilated like rangefinders, you might feel the whole world slipping away. If you were a man and laughed at him (the worst of all personal affronts), it would suddenly become clear in the horrible silence of his flat stare that you were in great danger. If you were a woman whose honor had been challenged, standing near Hart might make you feel safe. But no one, in the presence of Hart, every felt warmth.

Hart was born in Newburgh, New York in 1864 (or thereabouts) and had what biographers like to call a “nomadic youth.” By the time he had reached middle age, he had worked as a cowboy and dirt farmer, lived among the Indians of the Dakota Territory, and become friends with legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp. Hart had also enjoyed significant success in the theater (he was a Shakespearean actor on Broadway and played the part of Messala in the original stage company of Ben Hur). He was at least 45 years old when he made his first two-reel westerns for producer Thomas Ince in 1914. He was cast as the villain in both films: His Hour of Manhood and Jim Cameron’s Wife. By 1920, he had starred in a series of films, all westerns, often produced and directed by himself. He had become one of the top male actors in the world, an unlikely superstar. By 1925, however, the gin party that was the 1920s began to crave a bit more flamboyance from their cowboys, and Tom Mix came riding over the range in white, clean outfits; wearing his dazzling smile like an expensive accessory. Hart solemnly packed his saddle bags and retired to his ranch.

William S. Hart is fading fast from public memory, as are all the great silent performers who first brought Americans into the theaters. In another generation, he may be a half-understood myth – a name that only sounds familiar. Yet his work defined forever the archetype of the Western Cowboy. He was the first silent, hard man; the first grim loner; the stoic patriarch of a lineage that follows a direct path to Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, and Clint Eastwood. Yet, as with most fine things, time has diluted the purity of the original. Cooper was tall and chivalrous as Hart, but he was too beautiful, gave his lopsided grin too easily to the girls. Randolph Scott would be the favorite son, all angles and hard leather (and both Hart and Scott became western heroes at middle age), but for all the power of Scott’s lined, granite face; the eyes held the occasional twinkle of mischief, a playful heart under the hardened minerals.

As for Eastwood, he inherits much from Hart, particularly in glorious twilight. William Munny (The Unforgiven 1992) is a part Hart might have played, yet a William S. Hart character would not have failed as a pig farmer and would have never needed to fuel his devils with liquor in any case. Clint Eastwood is often a good man fighting away the evil man in himself. With Hart it was the opposite: Hart struggled to purge his few angels so that he could get down to business. The Hart cowboy was not good, was often a thief or killer, but might find moments of goodness (or not) in the course of a film. Indeed, he was known as “the good bad man.” In recent years the screen has favored only bad good men.

The Hart cowboy had no friends, had no wife, had no humorous sidekicks. In fact, Hart never seemed to like his fellow humans with all their weak, pathetic habits. He often did things for the honor of women, but seldom, if ever, for love of a woman. In the end, always, he could live without them. His characters, though often bank robbers or murders, never drank or smoked, never visited a whorehouse – never gambled or played the harmonica around the evening campfire. All these pursuits suggested a need for pleasure or companionship– a contemptible weakness. If William Hart went into a bar, he was looking for someone he wanted to kill or question. He was always a man on a mission, moving from point A to B. Vice, or any pleasure, simply got in the way – blocked his line of vision.

Hart invented a gritty, realistic style of Western. He was zealous in his love of the West and insisted on authenticity and perfect detail. When a saloon caught fire in a William S. Hart movie, entire, full-scale town sets were put aflame and allowed to blaze to ashes (Hell’s Hinges 1917) because that was how it happened in the real West. Actors in such a Hart movie often had to speak their silent lines blinking and shielding their faces from the heat waves. In the West of William Hart, wooden buildings look aged and forlorn into a fur of soft grays. Saloons are small and bare, and the characters milling around inside them look desperate and starved. Town streets are littered with chickens and pigs. Townsfolk are always blighted by poverty; women and men alike dress in drab rags, blink up at the brutal sun. The men are always filthy and seem at times simply of the filth (in one of the opening scenes of 1921’s Tumbleweeds, the camera shows us a huge sow, sprawled happily in the street up to her snout in a pit of shit and mud – cut to a shot of a man lying in a fetal position on a table in a saloon, snoring and sputtering in unconsciousness after a night of high times. Any questions?). Hart rides through these towns, the hooves of his horse sloshing through the mire, his face set forward; looking forever toward the thing, whatever it is, he must do.

How does one so humorless, so cold – so completely without human need - become the first Western hero?

Hart’s last great film, Tumbleweeds (1925), is about the great land rush of the Cherokee Strip of 1889. It is (in true Hart fashion) a shockingly realistic film about the sort of atrocities that occurred when that huge strip of land in Oklahoma was simply offered on a first-come-first-served basis. Hart plays Don Carver, a drifting cowboy (a tumbleweed) who sees his way of life vanishing. In one scene, Hart’s horse is startled by a rattlesnake. Hart instinctively pulls his revolver, but stops himself as he gazes down at the rattling serpent. He holsters his shooter. “Go ahead and live,” he says (via title cards). “You got a whole lot more right here than them that’s a comin’.”

As the movie progresses, things don’t go Don Carver’s way. After one particularly unpleasant afternoon, Hart is again riding along a horse path and the same viper spooks his horse. This time Hart’s eyes flash, the revolver is suddenly at the end of his hand, and he blasts the snake’s head off (as always Hart’s commitment to authenticity is impressive).

“You didn’t use good sense, meetin’ up with me today,” he says over the snakes headless carcass.

Hart never gave away his thoughts. That is to say, his motives weren’t obvious, and his actions were often terrible and unforeseen. Then as now, that makes for a fascinating character. A whole generation of movie lovers couldn’t wait to see what he would do next.


Mykal also wrote this in our conversation about William S. Hart and gave me permission to post it:

I have seen most everything by Hart, but sadly his best movie "Hell's Hinges" is out of print. I saw it years ago in a film class, and he (Hart) really impressed me so much I became a lifelong fan. I can still remember the professor grinning while watching the movie at a moment when someone in a bar cracked a funny at William Hart's expense. Even through the silent film and all the years, you could feel the bar on screen become still as Hart gave the fellow his full attention, the full force of his terrible face. The classroom became equally still with only the clattering of the projector (back in those days, real 35 millimeter film and real projectors).
"No one ever laughed at Bill Hart," said the professor quietly. So true.


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