Saturday, 16 November 2013

My Old Hollywood Alphabet

Hey, if it isn't Marcela!
I'll be damned.

It is true, folks. I'm alive! Marcie the cat is alive! And guess what? I got a whole new post coming your way today. My absence can be explained by a series of factors: I was busy, stressed, otherwise engaged and, I have to admit, a little forgetful. I feel bad for casting this blog aside like it's disposable, but I'm committed to coming back to it. Besides, I'm a little frustrated with the lack of movement on this blog lately. There was a time when a post started a great big discussion between you readers and everyone chipped in. Come on, guys, comment! Let's all get ourselves involved in this blog which, remember, is not just mine: It's also yours. Rant over. Let's begin.

I did this post because I thought it would be a really fun thing to do and it would make me remember a few things I love about Old Hollywood that I have maybe forgotten. Why don't you join me? I wanna make up for the lost time by making a long one, so grab your coffee, fellas!

Adam's Rib

It's fitting that this should be the first entry on this list, since, after careful thought, I have come to regard this as my favourite film. It's hard and dangerous to make such a statement, but Adam's Rib is truly everything I look for in a flick. It's funny, romantic, political, well-written, well-directed and mainly, well-acted. It flares the talents of Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Tom Ewell and Judy Holliday, who make up a hilarious foursome, perfect for the movie's spunky story and lively script. So blindly do I trust this movie that I use it as an initiation for non-movie lovers. It's been my experience that this movie is infallible.  

Barbara Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck is quite possibly the most underrated actress who ever lived. There's no explanation and no excuse for even cinephiles never having heard of her, the Academy never having given her an Oscar and her films not figuring in most lists of "essentials" or "must-sees". Barbara was a strong, sparkly-eyed woman with a beautiful life story and so much talent that one struggles to believe it. In a class of her own in film noir, her best work can be seen in "Sorry, Wrong Number", "Double Indemnity" and "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers". In other genres, don't miss her in "The Lady Eve", "Ball of Fire" and, oh God, "Stella Dallas". 


Screwball, slapstick, romantic or dramatic: Any time of comedy will be right up my alley. As a person that loves to laugh, there's nothing like kicking back with one of these flicks after a hard day. It's such a fantastic genre that even Alfred Hitchcock, so well-known for suspense, took a crack at it with "Mr. And Mrs. Smith." And what is the best one, you ask? "Bringing Up Baby", bar none. You call it a cliche, I call it a classic. 


Tell me you're favourite director and I will tell you who you are. Directors are, for me, the most instrumental part of filmmaking. The really good ones will add personal touches to every scene, like a celluloid fingerprint that real fans have no trouble spotting. From Hitchcock's cameos, to Frank Capra's common men, to George Cukor's female leads, there's nothing like a unique and idiosyncratic  director. As one delves into their filmography, one discovers more about the man (or woman!) behind the cameras and the name above the title: Film lovers, above filmmakers, looking to express themselves in the greatest medium known to man.

Elizabeth Taylor

I've always known, even if subconsciously, who Elizabeth Taylor was. But it wasn't until recently when I became a real fan and found out that the difference between having heard of her and adoring her is simply in knowing her. When one discovers Dame Elizabeth's beaming talent (Can we TALK about Virginia Woolf?), fascinating life, rich personality and kind heart, I assure you she does just the same she did to me: Swipe one off one's feet. I have no words to explain what this face means to me anymore. May she rest in peace, and may I get over the fact that I was just one year late in becoming her fan or I could've caught her alive. 

Fred and Ginger 

She does it backwards in high heels, but, heaven! He's in heaven! And our hearts beat so that we can hardly speak! But all that I know is they'd be hard to replace, and that night and day, they are the ones, even though he says tomAHto and she says tomAYto... Let's call the whole thing off! 
"Top Hat", "Swing Time", "The Gay Divorcee" and "The Barkleys of Broadway". 


The mother was perhaps the greatest voice to ever reach the film screens. At least so we thought until the daughter came. And all the while the father was directing some of the best movies of their day. Some family!

Howard Hughes

If Old Hollywood was a club, Howard Hughes would be an honorary member. His primary job was in aviation, as the owner of Hughes Aircrafts, but a number of movies depended upon Hughes' money and will to be made. From "Hell's Angels", which he produced, to "The Philadelphia Story" which he bought from the playwright who wrote it. Not to mention the amount of female stars he bedded and tried to take down the aisle - only to be turned down by most of them. An influential engineer, filmmaker and businessman, he is certainly a historical personality.  

Ingrid Bergman

Possibly my second favourite actress, after Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman awed me from the first time I saw her. The variety of roles she took on was always very inspiring and her courage and determination were a trademark. With her sweet smile and charming accent, I've never seen an actress make her way into so many hearts so fast, but if anyone deserves it, it is Ingrid. Go watch her in "Notorious", "Casablanca", "Gaslight" and "Spellbound." Oh, also watch her in this.

James Stewart

Jimmy Stewart is perhaps the best "guy next door" actor who ever lived. His earthy handsomeness, lovely voice and beautiful ability for nuance and emotion make him the perfect actor for playing everyday men. I have fallen in love with every single character I've seen him play, because he adds a degree of charm to them. Make sure to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" (yes!!), "Rear Window", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", "Vertigo" and "The Man Who Knew Too Much".

Katharine Hepburn

Nothing more to say about this one. 

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall is now a symbol of life for me. After a couple of years of being her fan I realised how much life she has inside her and I don't just mean her reaching the great age of 89, but the amount of experiences, dreams, love and struggles in those 89 years. I find that she is a woman open to anything life may give her and she is ready for it with maturity and courage. And what a talent. Make sure to watch "To Have and Have Not", "Dark Passage", "How to Marry a Millionaire" and "Written on the Wind". 

My Fair Lady

I could've danced all night...


My favourite genre. This genre to me, represents how movies are art, not a business. (Okay, they're both, but mainly the former.) The flattering lighting, the intricate crime stories, the sexy couples, the femme fatales and the hyper masculine sensual leading men. Just watch one. Or read this

Olivia de Havilland

I wish I could say I'm immensely familiar with Olivia De Havilland's filmography. But what I wanna talk about is a story that happened with her and Lucille Ball. I'll let Lucy herself tell you: "Then, one day, Kurt Frings, a well-known agent, drove the twenty-five miles out from Hollywood to our ranch to see me. He told me that Olivia DeHavilland had sent him. She had heard about my difficulties and thought perhaps he could help me. I hardly knew Olivia except to say hello. I was bowled over by her kindness. Olivia DeHavilland had been involved in the same kind of “package” dealing with the same agent that had been representing me. She had refused roles and had been put on suspension. Olivia fought a bitter eighteen-month court battle with the agent and won. Because she courageously fought the system, we all benefited.

The Philadelphia Story

My first favourite movie, and the reason I fell in love with Katharine Hepburn. Read this.


The films I would like to watch next are: The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Spitfire (I know), Clash By Night, Monkey Business and Anne of a Thousand Days, which brings me to...

Richard Burton

My little Welsh stallion...❤ I would marry this man in a heart beat, and it is not only because he is handsome and sexy like no other actor of his or any other day. He was beautifully talented, his voice echoed and made the floor shake all around him and loved with awe-inspiring passion. And plus there's his writing. How can a guy who's not even published be one of your favourite writers? Like this:
"One of these days I will wake up — which I think I have done already — and realize to myself that I really do love," he wrote. "Who invented that concept? I have wracked my shabby brain and can find no answer. But for the moment, the prospect of you sleeping in the next room is the only thing in the world worth living for." 

So Proudly We Hail

My favourite war movie. Check out a review here

Tracy and Hepburn

Chemistry. Love. Secrecy. From romantic comedies, to political melodramas, to family tearjerkers. There will never be a couple, on or off screen, like Tracy and Hepburn. Read this, then this, then this


Some call it typecasting, I call it personality.


Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Julie Andrews, Mitzi Gaynor, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Lauren Bacall, Marni Nixon, Debbie Reynolds, Rex Harrison, Richard Burton.
No doubt that the Golden Age of Hollywood was also the Golden Age of movie musicals.


Arguably the best screenwriter in history. "Sunset Boulevard", "Some Like It Hot", "The Apartment", "Double Indemnity", "Sabrina", "Witness for the Prosecution", "Ninotchka", "Ocean's Eleven"...
We had faces then, but we still needed writers. And Billy Wilder is as good as they come.

X, Y and Zee

Just because the critics said that in this movie, Elizabeth Taylor looked fat and losing her beauty to age. I beg to differ. 


Some people are surprised at how young some Hollywood stars were when they made certain movies. Olivia de Havilland was 23 in Gone With The Wind, same as Elizabeth Taylor in Giant. Lauren Bacall was 19 in To Have and Have Not, same as Hedy Lamarr in Ecstasy. Debbie Reynolds was 17 when filming Singing In The Rain. I have no idea why I can think of so many female examples of very young women playing older characters, but I can't think of a single male one. The contrary, however, older actors playing younger characters, is abundant for men. 

Zero Oscars for Greta Garbo.

Because that will always be a bummer.

Hope y'all enjoyed it, pals and gals, and see y'all later!

P.S. If you like Cate Blanchett, like me, I recommend you go watch Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's new movie. The script is not the best, but it is truly Ms. Blanchett's best work. I'm rooting for her for the Oscars!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Kay, the chorus girl in... "The Great Confusion of 1941"

Hepburn and Tracy: Nine movies and a secret romance

Hello, my pals and gals!
For today's post I'll have the help of Ms. Katharine Terryman, our chorus girl Kay.
She was in Hollywood in 1941, when the movies invaded the real world and Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy kissed for the first time in a moonlit hotel room where the cameras were not watching. Their characters were in love for the whole world to see on a movie screen, but behind the cameras it was their gaze that met, out of character, and it was their arms that were around each other when the lights were off and the studio called it a day.
Their relationship was a secret, or so they wanted, but it was clear as the light of day that the two of them had deep feelings for each other from day one. Magically, they became box office gold, bringing crowds to the theaters at the mere mention of their billings together. It wasn't the first or the last time that the public was less than discreet about their desire to see real-life couples on-screen together.

Well, this dates back, I have to assume, to one of the fundamentals of human existence: We pry.
And no, I don't mean that we all are nosey bastards who feed off of other people's private scandals and make a living out of the public joys and sorrows of poor movie stars. We simply have an innate curiosity towards the famous and a tendency to glamorize the way they live their lives. So much so that at the mention of a romance between stars of the standing of Hepburn and Tracy, the audience pictured their nightly strolls holding hands 'neath the moonlight, regardless of that ever happening or not. When given the opportunity of actually watching it happen, even if in character, the audience seldom wastes it. And the movie business has made a habit of profiting from this. I call it The Great Confusion, confusing personal life with on-screen stories.

Taylor and Burton: She took him to the screen
When married to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton was appearing on Broadway on the play "Hamlet". Shakespeare was his specialty and he made a point of exploring that to the fullest. But when Elizabeth came into the picture, they decided to take advantage of The Great Confusion and Richard immediately transferred his talents to a primarily cinematic context. They made a total of 11 films together. Richard made the full transition, but when it was time for Elizabeth to go on the stage, she encountered difficulties, especially with her voice, high and small. But, nonetheless, their partnership on the screen generated hundreds of millions of dollars for the pair, still one of the highest paid couples in movie history. Their relationship is also an example of how mixing personal life with show business may end badly: Arguably the greatest love story of the twentieth century ended in divorce. The amount of press surrounding every aspect of their life was undoubtedly a factor in their untimely separation.

Bogart and Bacall in '52. By the time this
picture was taken, their on-screen
partnership was over.
It's important to note that this is usually the worst downside to combining an off-screen partnership with its on-screen counterpart. One of the two has to remain away from the press. In the same way that Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy hid their private affair from the press, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall kept their on-screen partnership to a minimum. Appearing constantly on and off screen at the eyes of the public can be considered by the public as an invitation to pry even more into one's private affairs. If one concentrates one's appearances to one of the two circumstances, the eagerness to see more will be cooled down.

There are undoubtedly advantages of working with a significant other. Not only will the understanding and compromising attached to a relationship make the working dynamic easier but the fun of spending the day with a loved one instead of with strangers will increase motivation. But one must be very careful to not let it intrude in the private relationship and learn to identify the minute that the personal life of the couple starts to suffer. Ultimately, real life needs to be the priority.

The Great Confusion is another factor that obtains little consideration when analysing one's stardom. Very few remember that Lauren Bacall would probably not be a star had she not starred with Humphrey Bogart in her first picture. Katharine Hepburn had a huge launch in her career by working with Spencer Tracy and their partnership increased the endurance of both of their screen appeals. I'm not saying that any of these love stories were built on financial interest by any means, but falling in love with another actor and appealing to the masses together is a great luck. That's all it is. Luck.

Like Kay herself says:
"There's nothing as complicated as one's rise to stardom. So many factors count, so many moments are decisive. And to be a star is a transitory state. One day you might be loved by the audience, the next you may be shunned from the American screen. Look at Ingrid Bergman for example. We, actors, are at the mercy of the audience. They are the real bosses."

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Today's Blog is a Vlog!: Movie tidbits

Link for Burton and Taylor:

So long,

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Elizabeth Taylor, my diamond


Hello, my pals and gals! It is I, Marcie! I presented a seminar today and it went well thank god, so to celebrate, I come to you with a new post! I come to speak of a woman I learned to love. She walked in by coincidence, and elegantly swept my heart away. 
The story about how Elizabeth and I became friends - this is how I'm beginning to call my favorite stars, I'm well aware of the implications of that word and I still consider its use appropriate - is quite unusual, as it began, of all places, on Instagram
I, having liked Elizabeth for a long time, had found a beautiful picture of her and Richard Burton kissing at a party, and, after I applied an interesting filter, posted it. To my shock, I was bombarded with questions from my friends as for who I was kissing in that picture. Me? 
After I clarified that it was not me, but Elizabeth - although I would not mind kissing Richard Burton, I'll tell you this much - my friends began pointing out similarities in our eye and face shapes, body types and usual hairstyles. We don't look much alike, but the conclusion is that Elizabeth and I are the same "type". Small girl with big eyes, big hair, big brows and big curves, the bombshell type so uncommon in today's media that it almost looks old-fashioned. And fuelled by that fabulous compliment, I began a search on her life and works. It wasn't long before I was hooked on Dame Elizabeth. 

I became addicted to her Youtube interviews. Her sense of humor, her beautiful laugh, her incredible remarks, drove me crazy. She knew what to say and when to say it. "Are you a lady that has shown her talents on the Broadway stage before?" Bennett Cerf asked her in an episode of What's My Line. "Thank you for calling me a lady, and for saying that I have talent, but no!". I was in awe of how genuinely nice she was, and sweet and funny. In one interview in which she talks about her AIDS foundation, the interviewer stopped for a minute and didn't say anything. Elizabeth stopped too. The interviewer finally said "I'm looking at you in this well-lit room and I have to say, you are absolutely beautiful." She gave her a subtle smile and answered "Well, thank you very much". In another interview, this time with Arsenio Hall, he talked about her happy marriage, her success on the screen, her beauty and fame, and said "You probably have everything". She looked him straight in the eye and said: "A girl can always have more". I fell in love with her personality, regardless of her talent as an actress, which I had forgotten all about. It had been probably 7 or 8 months since the last time I saw her on my screen. 

I did a rewatch of Suddenly Last Summer one day when I was not feeling too good about myself and wanted a high dose of Kate, but at this time I also was able to focus on Elizabeth and her impeccable acting. They say the studios failed to provide her with acting classes, so she was a natural, but having done it since she was 10, she must've learned very much. Her performance in that movie took my breath away, and I was determined to see more. As I did a rewatch of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf I knew that she was one of the best actresses in history and should never have left my top ten. But it was when I found an old Cleopatra DVD, that my friend had given me for my birthday and I never got around to watching it, that my heart was truly taken. 

In the movie she sole my heart - with the man that helped her do it.
First, she was so goddamn beautiful. I know I'm repeating myself but I cannot get enough of her beauty, her charm, her elegance. But somehow it didn't distract from her incredible performance - it couldn't, when she was rigorously flawless for four hours straight, from the subtlety to the screams, every single minute she blew you away. It's not easy to play Cleopatra, but Elizabeth did it with mastery, making me glue my eyes to screen every time I sat down to watch it - I had to split it into four parts and watch it on 4 separate days, ah! The things I do for my stars when I have no time for them! Because her scenes with Richard Burton were my favorite (fuelled by an ardent real life romance as I later came to find out), I proceeded to watch "The Sandpiper", another beautiful Taylor-Burton collaboration and another sensual, romantic, and thrilling performance from a couple that is walking towards becoming my favorite.

And now I feel like I discovered her by a sweet coincidence, but she is like one of her beloved diamonds - so precious, so unique, so lucky I am to have her. Such talent, such grace, such loveliness, such qualities that I never expected to find. Burton said it best: "It’s no use pretending that you are an ordinary woman." She is utterly irresistible. 

Elizabeth and I may be the same type of beauty, but there are so many things about her that I envy. Not I nor anyone else in history has equaled the depth of her beauty, the sophistication of her perfect exterior combined with the volatility of her fiery interior. No one has experienced her lighting rise to fame, with the hungry yearning for a normal life boiling inside her ample chest. No one has felt the same degree of childlike emotions trapped inside such a blatantly womanly body. She is a singular masterpiece that no one in their right mind would expect to be repeated. There never has been, and there never will be another Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

"Mr. Capra Goes To My Heart" (2013)

It's the stuff that films are made of.

The year was 2013, and the main characters were an idealistic girl and a dead movie director. He took all of the hidden desires of the human race, all of our aspirations to change the world and turned them into stories about simple people, people I could know that simply by the force of their dreams became extraordinary. Frank Capra brought to cinema the power of inspiration, the power of idealism and faith.
"In our film profession you may have Gable's looks, Tracy's art, Marlene's legs or Liz's violet eyes, but they don't mean a thing without that swinging thing called courage."
(Frank Capra, "The Name Above The Title") 

Francesco Rosario Capra was born in Sicily and immigrated to America in 1903, at six years of age.  I could speak about Frank's story for ages and it would need not only a post but several posts to capture its total fascination. I am here to speak about his so-called "common man films", which were simply films about everyday men who became extraordinary due to situations they were put in. They had the Shakespearean "greatness thrust upon them", each in his own way. I will talk about Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Meet John Doe and It's A Wonderful Life, but don't forget that the "common man" is a recurring theme in Capra's work - it was the type of man he was and the type of man he believed in, so he felt enormous comfort portraying them.

First, we need to understand Capra's "one man, one film" motto. The motto itself deserves a post of its own, but for now all we need to know is that it implied that a director should be responsible for or at least oversee all parts of the making of a movie, which granted him great creative freedom. For that, Capra injected a lot of his own beliefs and his own ideas into his films.

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town is the oldest in our rank, dating from 1936. It tells the story of Longfellow Deeds, a simple-minded man from a small town who suddenly wins a fortune and has his life completely changed when he moves to New York city to manage it and heartbreakingly falls in love with an undercover journalist hired to write about his life. Longfellow is charmingly portrayed by Gary Cooper and the wisecracking newspaperwoman is brought to life by Jean Arthur. The movie gave me a strange knot in my throat while the journalist took advantage of his innocence, a feeling I never got
Capra, Arthur and Stewart
from a romantic comedy before, but made me realize that the flick had an enormous depth to it, one extraordinarily shown in the faces of the two main stars. The end of it conveys a message of hope, of redemption by love and altruism and a certainty that everything works out in the end. Such message would become a pattern in Capra's work.

The second film on the list is Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, that dates from 1939. Again with the fabulous Jean Arthur, this time co-starring Jimmy Stewart, the movie tells the story of an ordinary man - yet again - who finds himself with an opportunity to occupy a seat in the Senate. His pure and almost innocent intentions go against the very firmly established corruption in the political scene of America, but he does not surrender his ideals. It's almost unrealistic in its idealism, but the warm message of doing the right thing regardless of consequence ultimately makes it a delicious flick. There's no need to praise James Stewart's acting - only to say that in this flick more than all others he is the Stewart we know and love, the man next door with the potential for greatness. Jean Arthur is as charming and as hauntingly beautiful as ever.

Capra and Stanwyck
Then, along comes "Meet John Doe", from 1941. It tells the story of a newspaper woman, played with the usual flawlessness of Barbara Stanwyck, who, in an effort to save her job prints out a fake letter of a man about to commit suicide in protest of the current social situations.  The journalist and her editor fuel the story to the extent of finding an actual man to pose as John Doe, played by Gary Cooper, and start a very real political uproar. The most delicious part of this movie answers to the name of Barbara Stanwyck, who gives the character of Ann Mitchell an irresistible personality and an amazing life-likeness. If you are interested at all in the career of Barbara Stanwyck and has never seen a film with her, this is where I suggest you begin.

Lastly, we will touch the movie that drove me to blinding tears, "It's A Wonderful Life", from 1946. This is so many people's favorite movie that I don't even think I need to be here praising it once again, acknowledging its simple genius and letting every single one of my readers know that you have missed half of your cinephile experience if you've never seen it, but yet here I am. With the perfect casting of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, "It's A Wonderful Life" its the ultimate glorification of the everyday life. The singular feeling of this flick is looking at George Bailey's life and thinking it's absolutely extraordinary, but at a closer look, realizing how utterly normal it is. It gives you an entire new outlook on the common person, at your own everyday life, and how magic can be found in the little things. And, of course the ending, that sound cheesy whenever I describe it to anyone, but which can drive a heart of stone to endless tears.

There's a clear pattern in all of those films, ranging from actor choice (Stanwyck, Cooper, Arthur, Stewart) all the way to basic storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed these four pictures and I can recommend it completely to any one of my readers. As I do all the other Capra movies I've seen and not reviewed: "State Of The Union", "Arsenic and Old Lace", "It Happened One Night" and "The Miracle Woman". Next on the watchlist are "You Can't Take It With You", "Lady For A Day" and "The Bitter Tea of General Yen".

In this post, I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg of Frank Capra's work. I myself am still unfamiliar with most of it and have so much more to explore. One thing is for certain: I will do so with the utmost joy. Perhaps you'd like to join me?