Here is the Tired Old Queen at the Movies presenting Suddenly, Last Summer. Thank you, Steve.
I post this out of love for Steve Hayes' love of damned good movies. Another tribute to the star that was Elizabeth Taylor. And Katharine Hepburn. And Monty Clift.
Here is the Tired Old Queen at the Movies presenting Suddenly, Last Summer. Thank you, Steve.
Before Keith Olbermann ruinedJames Thurber for me forever, he did right by continually calling Glenn Beck "Lonesome Rhodes" Beck. And it was funny every single time.
I just finished watching A Face in the Crowd (1957), which I hadn't seen for at least 15 years, because I'm still pretty mad at Elia Kazan. As a picture, it's about 30 minutes too long and pretty heavy-handed. Andy Griffith could have been directed better (everything will be Kazan's fault, you'll see) and he shouts an awful lot, but otherwise is pretty good. As the woman who makes and breaks him, Patricia Neal turns in a terrific performance and kept reminding me, oddly, of Kate Winslet every now and then. She's a marvelous actress and plays Marcia Jeffries complicated and vulnerable. Oh and Walter Matthau is in it too.
You can't beat the picture for prescience and if you want to feel extra stupid about why Fox News is possible, you should watch it. But you can probably stop after you see Rhodes all alone at the big table.
Let me say one or two words about Lee Remick. I've been in love with her since The Omen, but I never knew she could twirl a baton. Golly.
I've already done the Birthday of the Week, but today is Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's birthday and the guy was great. What can I say? Sure, the scandal was hideous and dreadful for all concerned — lurid and career-ruining — plus the woman died and everything.
Anyway, anyway... I used not to care much for slapstick at all and especially avoided the kind where the big joke was about being fat or drunk, so I didn't come around to Arbuckle until my early 20s — and then only just, because he hung around with my girlfriend, Mabel Normand.
Then last July I saw him in "The Cook" at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival with Buster Keaton and became a true fan, as I hope you will too if you aren't already. Remember, all the stunts are done by the actors and the dog. The whole thing's a ballet.
Enjoy. But don't try any of this at home.
The Cook (1918)
Elizabeth Taylor was 10 when she made her first film, There's One Born Every Minute, (1942) and was only 12 when National Velvet made her famous. One of the few child stars of the time to enjoy progressively more success as she grew older, Elizabeth Taylor had a long and impressive career — starring in more than 50 films, at least 20 television appearances, and taking home two Oscars.
Much will be said about her over the next several days, but I remember her fondly as Amy in the wretched June Allyson version of Little Women, and pretty much anything she did with Montgomery Clift.
Elizabeth Taylor died today at the age of 79. Her last birthday was on the day of the 83rd Academy Awards and I hope she had a wonderful evening (in spite of the show and being in the hospital).
Just last week I posted a clip of one of her early cinematic turns as little orphan Jane's only and, sadly, fatally consumptive friend in the 1943 film Jane Eyre. Here she is a scant five years later in the trailer of A Date with Judy (1948). I leave it to you to marvel at her development.
Listen! National Velvet, Lux Radio Theater
(Broadcast February 3, 1947 — It's nearly an hour, so make some popcorn)
Elizabeth Taylor: 1932 - 2011
I'm finding it surprisingly difficult to write about Virginia Weidler. As the smartest, most regular-looking, cleverest girl in the room, she meant the world to my sister and me. We loved her like a great friend for many years. She was the closest thing to a real person in the classic films we adored and one couldn't help but watch her and hope she'd say or do more.
If you haven't seen her in anything, you must see The Philadelphia Story. Then maybe Young Tom Edison. She's good if less herself in The Women, but that's not her fault.
By the time she was 17, Virginia had made 45 films and had been in the business for 12 years. She retired shortly after Best Foot Forward, a wise move, got married and had two children. She died in 1968 at the age of 41.
Here she is as a rabid autograph hound in her penultimate picture, The Youngest Profession (1943). Her line, "What's more important, Walter Pidgeon or liver and onions?" has become something of a motto for me.
Virginia Weidler would have been 84 today. Happy Birthday, Buddy.
An interesting quote lifted directly and wholly from IMDb:
[When asked about her career in later years,] Virginia would always change the subject as quickly as possible without being rude. She never watched her old movies or replied to requests for interviews. Although she was never one to criticize, I think our boys got the impression that their mother didn't think very much of the motion picture industry." -- Lionel Krisel, Weidler's husband
I first became aware of Edward Everett Horton through "Fractured Fairytales," then F-Troop, then Fred & Ginger movies (which are glorious, but basically cartoons). It wasn't until I caught Holiday on some late show that I realized what a wonderful actor he was.
According to IMDb, the man had some project going every year from 1922 until 1971, the year after his death at the age of 84. If you've heard him or seen him, you've loved him.
Happy Birthday, Edward Everett Horton. Every time I think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, I hear him call her by her real name, Tusinelda Wolfenpickle, but can't for the life of me confirm that with YouTube.
A sweet talent, pushed too early by a stage mother, eventually struggling through a few sad marriages, then a sudden(ish) demise, Peggy Ann Garner was a wonderful performer, whose star, sadly, never shone past her teenage years.
Her film career began as an uncredited praying orphan in Little Miss Thoroughbred at age 7, then on to In Name Only with Cary Grant and Carole Lombard and progressively bigger roles until her starring performance as Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, for which she won a special Oscar in 1945 at age 12.
Aaaand then it was pretty much downhill from there. By 1949 she was in pictures likeBomba the Jungle Boy and The Big Cat.
The second of her three marriages was to Albert Salmi, that guy who shows up in a bunch of Twilight Zones and Westerns with the thin upper lip who talks with the top of his tongue pressed against his palate. [If you're interested in classic Salmi, may I recommend the Shatner version of The Brothers Karamazov?]
Peggy Ann did some live theater and television in the 1950s and 60s — including an episode of Batman as Betsy Boldface in "Ring Around the Riddler" (1967) — then retired from show business, ultimately making a living as a real estate broker and car sales manager.
She died in 1984 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 52.
A Life on Screen
As young Jane Eyre (1943). Perhaps you'll recognize her lovely brunette friend.
And briefly, as Betsy Boldface, in Batman some thirty years later.
Just finished watching Hard, Fast and Beautiful (RKO 1951), and yes, it's natural to think that it's the story of my life, but no, turns out to be just one of the many examples of Claire Trevor's naturalness at playing complicated women. I absolutely love and adore her. In this particular movie she plays the ambitious mother of a budding tennis star played by Sally Forrest, who looks oddly like Ida Lupino, the film's director, in a 2nd-cousin-y sort of way.
[Speaking of Ida Lupino, she and Robert Ryan just appear out of nowhere as spectators during one of the tennis matches played by Sally Forrest's character. It was a little unnerving. I mean, you expect Robert Ryan to sock somebody, right?] It's not a really good movie, but worth it for the sports angle and the sweetness of the boyfriend and father figures.
There's nothing Claire Trevor couldn't do, in my humble opinion. She could be cutting, sympathetic, damaged, scheming, bad, mean, sexy, and tired — but always real, human, and female. Ugh. Nobody writes for actresses like her and it's criminal. Granted, I still haven't seen her in the episode of Murder, She Wrote that Netflix tells me I can see for free, but I'm guessing she's marvelous. I'll certainly let you know.
She does show up in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the Murder, She Wrote of the late 1950s), as an American journalist who finds herself caught up in Cold War intrigue with a hot young Jacques Bergerac, and old enemy stand-bys, Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink) and John Banner (Sgt. Schultz). Don't take my word for it; just watch for yourself.
Meanwhile, Happy 101st Birthday, Claire Trevor. There was and is no one like you.
It's been a rough week for movies, starting with the Academy Awards last Sunday with all the boredom and the sadness. At least my friends were here with wine and that has helped take the edge off since then.
All I've managed to see in the meantime has been kid stuff and much of that accidental: Karate Kid (2010), Karate Kid (1984), The Duchess (2008), and Clambake (1967).
Full disclosure on Clambake: I fell asleep right after Shelley Fabares lost her bikini top water skiing and awoke when pudgy Elvis (seriously, a ducktail in 1967?) was conducting some fuel experiments in Gary Merrill's lab. A blond Bill Bixby was here and there gamely rutting after Shelley, which I gather was a plot point, but really, once you've stumbled upon Gary Merrill's alcoholic ass sporting old man pants in a beach picture the only humane thing to do is switch off the TV and pick up your knitting.
Which brings me to the Karate Kid (the real one). I don't remember seeing this movie when it came out, because during the mid-80s I was deeply, ostentatiously attending and wrongly disdaining New German Cinema and Art Films and would probably not have been caught dead at a flick that starred Arnold from Happy Days. Plus, eh, kung-fu.
So if yesterday was indeed the first time I'd seen it, I wish I had not been such a snob. It's a fine and engaging story and Ralph Macchio was sweet, natural, and interesting to watch. I'm happy to learn that Macchio is a decent guy who didn't mess up his life or anyone else's (I'm talking to you, Scott Baio). Perhaps the reason we haven't seen more of him since My Cousin Vinny is best explained by this Funny or Die piece, which I can only link to (perhaps they didn't get their own joke?).
Of The Duchess, I have only two things to say: (1) everyone would be much better off reading the book and (2) Keira Knightly needs to eat a sandwich.