Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: The Making of the African Queen or How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind by Katharine Hepburn

Goodreads Summary: The Making of The African Queen or How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind by Katharine Hepburn. Published by Alfred A. Knope New York 1987 Filled with laughter and personal insight into the making of the movie, many photographs.

I love Katharine Hepburn. I love her autobiography Me: Stories of My Life. The African Queen is one of my all time favorite films. So it shouldn't be surprising when I say this is one of my new favorite books.

Hepburn gives the reader a vivid insight into her experience making The African Queen with Bogie and John Huston- which is great, because she talks about several things I haven't heard discussed in most documentaries (for instance: I didn't know she objected to the original script or that she actually suggested a few of the most popular scenes to Huston.) I've heard some complain before that they thought Hepburn's writing style a bit hard to read, but I've never had issues with the writing in either of her books (and I personally love the way she writes anyway).

Another thing I love about this book is that it contains several behind the scenes pictures and stills that I've never seen before and are probably really hard to find anywhere else.

Overall, I found The Making of the African Queen to be a quite wonderful book. I'd suggest checking it out if you're a fan of the movie. This book is currently out of print, but is available in places like libraries and Amazon, and it also comes with The African Queen box set, which is how I got my copy. 

"Now what do you suppose ever happened to Charlie and Rose? Where did they live? Did they stay in Africa? I always thought they must have. And lots of little Charlies and Rosies. And lived happily ever after. Because that's what we wanted them to do. And every summer they take a trip in the old Queen- and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh..."
-closing paragraph, page 129.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Humphrey Bogart Blogathon Announcement+ Blog Updates

As most of you probably know by now, Humphrey Bogart is my favorite actor. In honor of his 112th birthday on December 25th, I've decided to host my first blogathon, which will run from December 23-December 25th. I realize that's it's three months away, but if you'd like to participate, I ask that you let me know by December 22nd. Your post can be about his films, his life or anything else Bogie-related.

Here are a few banners I made to promote the blogathon (feel free to make your own if you'd rather):

Just a few other blog updates:

Starting Saturday, I'll be changing the blog header at the beginning of every month featuring a film that somehow relates to that particular month.

Also, I'll be starting a new "blog series" called My Favorite Films. As the title says, about once or twice a month I'll do blog posts talking about some of my favorite films, mainly focusing on my top twenty for now. I'm planning to blog about a few special films to coincide with the blogathon in December.

If you have any questions about the blogathon, let me know in the comments, or contact me through Twitter.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fashion In Film: My Top 10 Edith Head Designs

My contribution to the Fashion In Film Blogathon, hosted by Angela at The Hollywood Revue.

Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about what to write. As Edith Head is my favorite costume designer, I thought it'd be fun to decide which films/designs of hers I liked best. This is more so ranked on the actresses' whole wardrobe, rather than just one outfit. Also, Angela just posted her top 10 film costumes recently, so make sure you check that out!

10: Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress (1949)

9: Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)

8: Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958)

7. Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950)

6. Gloria Swanson in Susnet Blvd (1950)

5. Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina (1954)

4. Elizabeth Taylor in A Place In the Sun (1951)

3. Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve (1941)

2. Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954)
Tried to find a good colored version of this such luck.

1. Ingrid Bergman in Notorious (1946)

That's it for my top 10 Edith Head designs. A big thanks to Angela for hosting this blogathon!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Films of Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock

Cary Grant made four films- Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest- with my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock. Grant also referred to Hitch as his favorite director, and Hitch called Grant "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life". I've seen all four of their films together, and enjoy them all, so I decided to say a bit about each of them.

 Grant's first film with Hitch was Suspicion (1941), co-starring Joan Fontaine, who won an Oscar for her role. The film is about an English woman (Fontaine) who marries charming playboy (Grant), then suspects he is planning to murder her.

I would say Suspicion is probably the weakest of the four Grant/Hitch collaborations. Not that it's a bad film- it isn't- but I find the other three films they made together to be much better, one reason being because of the changes made to Grant's character in the film versus the original novel Before the Fact written by Anthony Berkeley. **SPOILER ALERT**. In the book, Grant's character kills Fontaine. However, the studios objected to this as Grant was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time and they feared playing a murderer would ruin his image. Thus, the ending was altered, much to Hitch's objection. I would have liked to see the ending as it was in the novel, since Grant rarely played the villain in any of his films.

The second of their films together is my favorite Hitchcock film, Notorious. Released in 1946, Notorious tells the story of a Nazi spy's daughter (Ingrid Bergman) who is trained by a government agent (Grant) to spy on her father's former colleagues who transfer to Brazil after WWII.

Notorious is one of Hitchcock's most acclaimed films, as it contains two of the most remembered scenes in film history. The first begins at the top of a staircase as Hitch slowly zooms in on Bergman showing a key hidden in her hand. The second is a two-and-a-half minute on-again/off-again kiss between Grant and Bergman that went against the Production Code, which stated that a kiss could be no longer than three seconds.

This is my favorite Hitchcock film for many reasons, one being the wonderful chemistry that the two stars had together.

To Catch a Thief (1955) pairs Cary Grant with Grace Kelly, whom he referred to as his favorite of the many actresses he worked with during his career. It was the third film that both Grant and Kelly made with Hitch (Kelly had starred in Dial M for Murder and Rear Window prior to this). This film is about retired jewel thief John Robie (Grant) who the police believe has returned to his robberies. Kelly plays an heiress who is convinced he is guilty, while her mother (Jessie Royce Landis) believes he's innocent.

Each of the four Grant/Hitchcock films features a car chase scene, the one in To Catch a Thief taking place in Monaco- reportedly on the same road where Kelly's fatal car accident occurred on September 14, 1982, after she supposedly had a stroke while driving.

  Last but not least is the film that would probably be Hitchcock's most famous if not for Psycho: North by Northwest. NxNW stars Grant as Roger Thornhill, a man mistaken by foreign officials for being a government advocate, and is tracked across the United States while trying to prove his real identity. This film co-stars Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.

North by Northwest is most remembered for the iconic crop-dusting sequence. While Grant waits at an isolated bus stop, a biplane is, in another character's words, "dusting crops where there ain't no crops". The plane flies toward Grant, barely missing him. You can watch the scene here if you're interested.

To sum it up, the four films Cary Grant made with Alfred Hitchcock are all worth watching. I'd recommend them to any classic film fan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Ace In the Hole (1951)

IMDb Synopsis: A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.

Billy Wilder is one of my favorite directors, who made quite a few of my favorite films- Sunset Blvd, Double Indemnity, Stalag 17 and The Apartment being just a few of them. Being a huge Wilder fan, I expected quite a lot from Ace In the Hole. I'm glad to say my expectations were met.

I'm starting to become a big fan of Kirk Douglas (and I have TCM to thank for that as I've seen several of his films since he's Star of the Month for September), and this is the best performance from him that I've seen so far. I thought it was really interesting to see him as the "bad guy" since he plays more of the hero-type in films like Spartacus. The cast itself is made up of several marvelous actors, including Jan Sterling,  Porter Hall and Richard Benedict.

Billy Wilder's direction is wonderful, but considering it's from the same man who made Sunset Blvd, I'm not surprised.  Also worth mentioning is the extremely well written script from Wilder and screenwriters Lesser Samuels and Walter Newman, which was nominated for Best Story and Screenplay at the 1952 Academy Awards.

Overall, I found Ace In the Hole to be a wonderful film noir, thanks to both Wilder and Kirk Douglas. I'll be watching this again soon.

5/5 stars

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy birthday, Lauren Bacall+ TCM tribute

Tomorrow, September 16th, marks the 87th birthday of one of my all time favorite actresses, Lauren Bacall. TCM is also airing a thirteen hour tribute in Bacall's honor, which includes some of her greatest films (I've seen all but The Cobweb). Here's the line up for anyone who's interested:

6:45AM- Dark Passage (1947) *
8:45AM- Key Largo (1948) *
10:30AM- Bright Leaf (1950)
12:30PM- The Cobweb (1955)
2:45PM- Sex and the Single Girl (1964)
4:45PM- Harper (1966) *
7:00PM- Private Screenings: Lauren Bacall (2005) *

*I recommend this film

I again want to say happy birthday to one of my biggest role models and the woman that first inspired me to pursue acting. I also highly recommend her autobiography By Myself, and Then Some, to anyone that hasn't read it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: The Innocents (1961)

IMDb Synopsis: A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.

Can I just start off by saying this film was fantastic? I hadn't heard that much about it prior to viewing, but I was quite blown away by how much I enjoyed it. The Innocents is a film that truly defines "classic horror".

I've always been a big fan of Deborah Kerr, and I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said this was the best of her performances I've seen so far. I'm quite surprised she did't get a Best Actress Oscar nomination in 1962. The whole cast itself was marvelous, including Megs Jenkins, Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin.  

I can't finish this review without mentioning the direction and cinematography. Between director Jack Clayton (who also made Room at the Top and The Pumpkin Eater) and cinematographer Freddie Francis, The Innocents contains a very Hitchcockesque quality to it, which few films can pull off. Also worth noting are the Victorian-style costumes by Sophie Devine, who also made similar costumes for films such as Long Day's Journey Into Night and Great Expectations.

Overall, The Innocents is a wonderful and haunting film that I'd recommend to suspense/horror fans, or just classic film buffs in general. If you'd like to watch it, you can do so here.

5/5 stars

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Decades Meme: 1930's

I really enjoyed doing memes like the Cinematic Alphabet and the Old Hollywood Alphabet. I couldn't find anything like them, and, needing something new to write, I just decided to make my own Decades Meme- picking a film from every year in a certain decade (today's being the 1930's). I'll also be doing the 40's, 50's and 60's later on. I won't be doing the 20's or previous decades for awhile as I haven't yet seen many pre-30's films.

1930: Morocco

1931: City Lights

1932: Scarface

1933: Bombshell

1934: It Happened One Night

1935: Top Hat

1936: The Petrified Forest

1937: Stage Door

1938: Pygmalion

1939: Gone With the Wind

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nicholas Ray Blogathon: Rebel Without a Cause

For my contribution to the Nicholas Ray Blogathon over at Cinema Viewfinder, I chose to be quite unoriginal and write about Ray's most seen and most remembered film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955)- just because it's probably my favorite and the one I've seen the most out of all of his films.

Rebel is an iconic film for quite a few reasons, the biggest probably being that it stars James Dean sporting red leather in his most popular role as Jim Stark, the new kid at Dawson High School who, along with Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, can't seem to fit in with anyone. Dean was the only one of the three that didn't receive an Academy Award for his performance, as he was nominated the same year for East of Eden (which I consider to be the best of his three film performances).

Another reason that this film is so widely remembered is the fact that all three of the main stars died young under unfortunate circumstances: In September 1955, just before the release of Rebel, James Dean was tragically killed in a car accident at the age of 24. In 1981, Natalie Wood drowned at 43, and in 1976, Sal Mineo was stabbed to death at 37. Edward Platt also committed suicide in 1974.

Rebel Without a Cause changed cinema history when released in 1955 and still continues to achieve landmark status to this day. It's a truly remarkable film, and one that I believe every classic film fan should see.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

IMDb Synopsis: Two singers, best friends Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw travel to Paris pursued by a private detective hired by Lorelei's fiancĂ©'s disapproving father to keep an eye on her, a rich, enamoured old man and many other doting admirers.

I've mentioned a few times on my blog before that I'm not a huge Marilyn Monroe fan. This is for a number of reasons, mainly because she's never appealed to me and I find her extremely overrated. However, I did really enjoy her in How to Marry a Millionaire, so I decided to watch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes since it's one of her most popular films and I've heard nothing but goods things about it. Needless to say, my high expectations were met.

This film is mostly remembered for Monroe singing "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend". But more is memorable than just the song- her acting is great, too. I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed her performance, as well as Jane Russell's. There's also a great supporting cast, which includes Charles Coburn, Tommy Noonan and Norma Varden.

Howard Hawks is responsible for directing many of my favorite films, including To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Ball of Fire and His Girl Friday, just to name a few. This was my first time viewing one of his Technicolor pictures, and his direction is top-notch (which is no surprise). 

Overall, I found Gentlemen Prefer Blondes to be a surprisingly delightful film. Now I'll finally get around to seeing Some Like It Hot and The Seven Year Itch.

5/5 stars