Friday, 31 August 2012

A letter from Spencer

June of 1968

My dearest Katie,

You were wrong.
I hate to start this letter this way, my darling, but you were wrong. You said there was nothing after death. You said that when one dies, everything dies, everything is over, there’s nothing to look forward or back to: A life erased from the face of the earth. Well, darling, first of all, as long as you were there to remember me, I was never truly erased from the face of the earth. Secondly, there is such a thing as life after death and I am the living – perhaps not so living – proof of it.

I am in heaven. I am in a place I’ve always believed in. I knew this to be real, Kath, and I tried to make you believe too, but you couldn’t. Life makes no sense without this place. You of all people can understand this. You kept looking for some sense in your life. You keep trying to add reason where clearly there wasn’t any. Life is not meant to be understood and lived simultaneously, my love. I kept telling you that. I kept telling you that you should focus more on the living and less on the thinking. You’ll understand when you get up here. It is very lonely up here without you, I must admit, and anywhere would be lonely without your striking presence. It’s ridiculous how much I love you, Kathy, and I never quite realized the true extent of my feelings on earth. No one does until they get up here. Without you, I would’ve died many years earlier. You were my savior, my angel, my miracle.

I’m saying all these things to the air, knowing that you will never hear me. I always wondered on earth how I’d live without you. The simple answer is: I won’t. Without you, I only wait. Without you, I am but a dead man, my soul is but an empty shell, waiting for your love to fill it up again. I wait and I dream and I watch over you every single day. I saw how you turned 61 recently, surrounded by only those few friends you loved and cherished the most, just the way you wanted it. I was so happy for you, my Kath. I have laughed and cried with you over this past year, and I’ve been closer to you than you ever realized.  I would give anything to have you here again, but, my love, I have nothing left to give. But when you get here, when you get here, my love- Oh, I can hardly wait! My eyes get teary just thinking about it! Remember when we were young and silly, with nothing left to fear, as if the whole world was our oyster, and our whole lives were on our fingertips? Heaven will be like that. You, and me, and nothing but the sky. I envied your strong heart, Kathy. It supported you and I both in this crazy Ferris wheel we call life. This is why our affection was so strong: We were clinging tight to the same thing.

You called me a baked potato as a reference to my simplicity in acting. Acting was our craft and our love for it made our love for each other grow stronger. But you and I both know that in real life, I was as complicated as I could be. I had problems, layers and layers of them, and you knew and loved each one. You didn’t understand people, my love, you didn’t even understand yourself, but you understood me. And sometimes that was all I needed. One look of those ruthless eyes, one touch of those overworked hands, one whisper of that distinctive high voice and all my problems seemed to melt away. How delicious that you loved me back just as much as I loved you.

I met your parents up here again. They had been so proud of you. We talk about you non-stop. Bogie is still a pool of admiration and care for you. You’re his little sister even in the next world. Tom is also here. He misses you so much. He just wants to give you a hug and play with you in Fenwick once again. He’s so sorry for ending things the way they did. He wishes he could change the past.

The truth is, we all do, Kath. We all want to change the past in at least one way. I wish I could’ve shown you how much I loved you, how highly reliant I was on you. You’re still the same, you’re still beautiful. That red hair flaming free, those eyes  like bullets to the heart, that mouth perfectly arching downwards and that marvellous spirit that bursts out of your skin. Not everyone could see it in its total magnificence. You didn’t let them.

Listen to me, my love. You made my life make sense. I will spend the eternity being grateful to you. I want you to live long and healthy for many more years to come. I miss you, but I can wait. I’ll wait for as long as it takes.

I love you and only you. Every day for the rest of eternity.
With wishes for the best,
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy

Disclaimer: I didn't know whether to post this or not, because it could be misinterpreted, but I decided to post it anyway. This letter is a work of fiction, written by me. It is a product of my personal understanding of the Hepburn-Tracy relationship, and it does not claim complete historical accuracy. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Not trying to alarm you guys...

... But I've been contacted by Google saying that someone logged into my Blogger account from Turkey last week. I've never been to Turkey.
This suggests that my account has been hacked. I changed my password and haven't noticed any changes. I hope nothing happens, but I just wanted to give my lovely readers a heads up in case anything inappropriate gets posted here.
I hope now, after nearly three months and almost thirty posts, you guys know me. You know my style, you know what I do and don't do and if someone were to post in my place, you'd recognize it instantly.

Don't worry about it, guys, thus far, everything is okay! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for sticking with me. You are the reason I'm even here and you are the reason I have so much fun in this blog.

Count on me, dearests!

So long,

UPDATE: I'm also gonna be starting the 250 film meme shortly! Check out the link on my sidebar!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Girl Who Could Fly: From Ingie With Love

This is the second post in the "Girl Who Could Fly" series. Happy birthday, Ingie, and rest in peace! 

In 1971, a television show called Retro Bites interviewed a rather beautiful and well-preserved 56-year-old woman. "Were you ever worried that you would be compared to Garbo, you both being Swedes?" She, with well over thirty acting awards in her records, answered with: I admire her so much myself that I never thought I compared. I came out to try my own wings, see if I could fly." She flashed a perfect smile to the camera and, on the other side, millions of fans nodded their heads. She could fly alright.

This woman would be turning 97 today. Coincidentally, it is also the 30th anniversary of her death from breast cancer. Can you imagine dying on your birthday? I'm sure she was the only actress ever to do so. And it wouldn't be the first time she made history. 

She acted in 5 languages. She was married to the biggest Italian director of all time. She was the second actress ever to win three oscars. She was one of the three actresses ever to win more than two Academy Awards, along with Katharine Hepburn and Meryl Streep. She was the favorite female star of the greatest suspense director of all time. Some say he had a crush on her. She worked with some of the greatest leading men in history including Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Leslie Howard and Gary Cooper. She is considered by the American Film Academy as one of the top five most legendary actresses on the silver screen and she is not even American. She was a fundamental part of the most well-known film of all time: Casablanca. She presented the only tie in the history of the Academy Awards. She started her movie career in the great year of 1939, and was still able to distinguish herself.
 In the much too brief period of 67 years, Ingrid Bergman did just that.

She was born at war, in Stockholm, in an unusually cold night in the end of August of 1915. Everything in that little girl's life would be unusual from then on. At three years of age she would lose her mother and ten years later, she'd become an orphan. The loss of her parents at such a young age turned Ingrid's life around completely: She'd become a nomad, changing houses and guardians like most girls her age changed their clothes. She went to live with an aunt who died only six months later (what was up with the Bergmans anyway?) and then with a more distantly related couple, who already had five children of their own.
Very much like Cinderella, at 17, Ingie left the house where she was an outsider and went, on a full scholarship, to the place where she truly belonged: The Royal Theatre Acting School. This Swedish institute prided themselves in being the place where the queen of silence Greta Garbo had started off to her glorious career. The scholarship was a prize from an acting competition that Ingie had won after impressing the judges with how naturally and spontaneously she accessed her gift. In fact, "natural" could've been Ingrid's middle name, since she was never one to need makeup to look gorgeous enough to kill a horse. She had been learning English, and by the time she got to "Casablanca" (1942), she was fluent, but her charming accent was a proof of how naturally she spoke the language. Ingrid seemed to be unaware of the magic that surrounded her and despite her trying to look and act like the girl next door, it is clear by the first words she uttered that she was made of something very special.

After acting in many films in Sweden and Germany, Ingrid was brought to Hollywood by the likes of  David O. Selznick himself, even staying at his house until she found accommodation. Despite looking unusual for the stars at the time (she had thick eyebrows and towered at 5'9'' when most actresses barely passed 5') and looking and sounding Swedish, Selznick let her have it her way. Ingie didn't change a thing about herself, not even her name, despite Selznick's allegation that Americans would have a hard time pronouncing it (What kind of American can't pronounce "Bergman"?).
Her first film, "Intermezzo: A love story", with Leslie Howard, was a hit. It made Ingrid a big star and it remained her favorite until her dying day. From then on, she kept her international career at the same pace: Some time in Germany, some time in Sweden (since her then husband and daughter were still living there) and some time in Hollywood. That is, until 1942, when "Casablanca" came out and changed the cinema world forever.
I have to admit that Casablanca is one of my favorite movies ever, in spite of how cliche that may sound. It was the first classic movie I've ever seen and the one that got me on my knees for Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart, both still high up on my favorite actors and actresses list. Casablanca was a beautiful tale of love and war,  with an exotic setting, all-star cast and perfect timing of release. No wonder it became one of the most famous movies ever. It was filmed in a hurry, with a cast and crew anxious to move on to the next picture and not even the writers knowing how it would end. Neither Bergman nor Bogart had won any Academy Awards at this time, but Casablanca earned Bogie a nomination. Ingie would get nominated too in that year, but for playing María in Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls". This one was made calmly, in Technicolor and with plenty of preparation. It did not have one third of the success of Casablanca.
Her first Academy Award came in 1944, for the movie "Gaslight", directed by walking goldmine George Cukor. From then on, she attracted the attention of Alfred Hitchcock himself, who immediately demanded that she appeared on one of his films. Spellbound came first, followed by Notorious, where she began a rock solid friendship with Cary Grant, and Under Capricorn. The two had a lifelong friendship. Hitchcock's feelings towards Ingrid are disputed 'til today. Some say he looked at her like a daughter and some say he was so in awe of her that he even had a hint of a romantic feeling for her. We'll never know for sure, but, what we do know is that when he was about to die in 1980, he received visits from many of his stars. When hearing him say "I'm going to die soon.", they replied with "No, you aren't, Hitch! Don't worry about it!". Ingrid was the last one to visit. "I'm going to die soon." "Yes, you are." She replied, "But, everybody dies, Hitch." He passed away in peace.

Hitch directing his favorite girl

In the late forties, Ingrid became an admirer of Italian director Roberto Rossellini and wrote him a letter stating that she would enjoy working with him in a motion picture. Italy was in post-war crisis at the time. Ingrid's daughter Isabella later said her mother's action would be as if Hollywood star Julia Roberts wrote a letter to an Iraqi director in the 2010s. Daring or not, Ingrid's letter would result in many consequences: The most lasting of which a marriage with three beautiful children. The first one came in 1950. The couple was unmarried. Scandal! A woman who had sex out of wedlock? We don't want to see her in the Hollywood screen! What the audiences didn't know is that one of their highest-grossing actresses at the time was Katharine Hepburn who had been, well, an unmarried non-virgin for quite some time.
The problem with Ingrid was the typecasting her angel face allowed for. Her sweet smile and blue eyes permitted her to be just right for roles like "Joan of Arc" and "The Bells of St. Mary's". The public came to regard her as a saint. When she was shunned from the Hollywood screen, she became very active in the Italian scene. With Rossellini, she pioneered in the neorealism genre, a genre that focused heavily on the psychological aspects of the characters. 

After she separated from Rossellini, she made a triumphant return to Hollywood with her next picture "Anastasia", in 1956. She won the Academy Award again, and this time, it was accepted by Cary Grant. She didn't know how the public would react to seeing her in the Award show and wouldn't appear again until 1958. Coincidentally, a little over 10 years later, she would be back at the Oscar stage to present the only tie in the Academy's History: Katharine Hepburn, for The Lion in Winter and Barbra Streisand, for Funny Girl. 

Yet another Award of her own was coming, for "Murder on the Orient Express", based on a great novel by Agatha Christie and with an all-star cast (Including Albert Finney, Anthony Perkins and Lauren Bacall). This one would be for Best Supporting Actress. Her acceptance speech would make history: She thanked the Academy and the fans, but mostly apologized to Valentina Cortese for winning the Award instead of her. A remarkable thing for any actress, but somehow not so surprising for the ever so graceful Ingrid Bergman. Another funny anecdote is the casual way she said "It's always nice to get an Oscar." as if she was thanking someone for an after-dinner chocolate. Ingie was definitely part of a generation of actors who didn't believe an Academy Award automatically made you the last cookie in the jar. 

Her last role was in the made for TV movie "A Woman Named Golda". She would finish it very shortly before her death and would be awarded with a posthumous Emmy for her performance. Her career and her life were brutally interrupted by breast cancer in 1982. She was 67 years old. It was her birthday. Two years earlier, she had written an autobiography named "My Story", after her children alerted her that those who didn't tell their own story would be known through other people's words and rumors. 

Love her or hate her (I don't see how), Ingrid's ashes are now gloriously scattered off the freezing coast of Sweden. Her physical presence has been reduced to a small tombstone in the Northern Cemetery in Stockholm. But, her spirit still soars alive in her films, in her legacy and in her children. There is no way to turn off the light that was Ingrid Bergman. Despite her being gone for thirty years today, millions of us still remember what she was, what she stood for and what she became. As far as I'm concerned, Ingie has a lot to thank her lucky stars for. 

Rest in peace, Ingrid Bergman. Thank you for everything.

So long,

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Girl Who Could Fly: "Notorious" or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a Strictly On-Screen Couple

This is the first post in the "Girl Who Could Fly" series. Happy birthday, Ingie, and rest in peace! 

The audiences loved them. Alfred Hitchcock loved them. I love them. And they loved each other.
There's no way not to love Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. 

With them both occupying second place in my favorite actors and actresses list, they were two of the first Hollywood actors I've ever fallen in love with. I first saw them separately: Ingie on Casablanca, Cary on Bringing Up Baby. I was lucky to first find out about them in such fabulous pictures, because it instantly gave me a good impression on them. It was those two pictures that motivated me to look more into them and the more I saw them on my screen, the more fascinated I was with everything about them. 
It was in a Hitchcock festival that I found out about Notorious. My favorite director with two of my favorite stars together in a thrilling picture about the spy game? Could it be too good to be true?
No, it was even better. 
Ingrid Bergman plays with all her brilliance the beautiful Alicia Hubermann, daughter of a German traitor but who had very patriotic feelings about America. When she is approached by the irresistible Devlin, played by Cary Grant, she is lured into a secret spy mission in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (!), where they must uncover an enormous operation against the United States. As they share this lofty quest, a spark of love grows between the two. To say that this is cinema gold would be an understatement.
This movie has a rather romantic scene that consists in many consecutive kisses, each one lasting no more than three seconds, in which Cary and Ingrid's characters talk, hug and even speak on the phone. It's one of the most romantic, and at the same time one of the most erotic scenes in movie history.
What was different about Cary and Ingie was that I was able to be touched, excited, thrilled and amazed by a couple on the silver screen knowing that there was absolutely nothing going on between them in real life. 
My favorite on-screen couples (Tracy and Hepburn, Bogart and Bacall, Arnaz and Ball, the list goes on) all had relationships in real life and drew chemistry from them in order to perform better. There is nothing more captivating than a look from Lauren Bacall to Humphrey Bogart on one of their love scenes and you can see it in their eyes that there is something real going on. Whenever I watch a romantic picture, I always fish for those looks and smiles because I love to be touched by an off-screen relationship on an on-screen couple.
However, with Ingrid and Cary, it was still there. That spark, that reality, that different glow in their eyes was still there, even though there was no off-screen relationship to back them up. I saw them on the screen and I fell in love with their chemistry, the way they acted together as if nothing else in the world mattered.

Of course my hopeless romantic mind scavenged the internet for so much as a hint of a real-life relationship. None. They were both married to other people at the time and were simply good friends. It was their acting, their pure talent that gave them that unmatched affinity on the silver screen. I learned to sink myself on their on-screen persona, forgetting about the fact that there was no real relationship backing it up.

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are movie magic. If you haven't seen "Notorious", kindly stop what you are doing and go delight yourself like you never have before.

So long,

Monday, 20 August 2012

Katers gonna Kate

I was looking through my pictures the other day and I noticed I had a folder named "Katers gonna Kate". I started looking through it and I realized it was the documentation of her eccentricity, her uniqueness, everything that made her Kate.
I found myself delighted looking at the photos all over again and I wanted to share them with you.
Here is the reason why the word 'cool' can be so accurately used to describe Katharine Houghton Hepburn:

A mini-suffragette: Flyers she helped hand out at age 5

Hiding in the bathtub

Monkey love in 1932

Disguising as a man for Sylvia Scarlett

Styling her hair with the rollers she made herself

After almost losing an Oscar at the hurricane of 1938

Coffee with the president

Spence love in 1942

Hiding in a bucket. How did she even get in there? Or worse, how did she get out?

Giving the boyfriend her tough love in 1949

"Farewell, Amanda, adios adios adieu..."

Out with the costume, in with the pants: Kate is back

This scene was especially hard for Katharine to make, since she was the one to find her brother's body after he hanged himself in his room. He was only fourteen, she was twelve. She toughened up and did the scene perfectly anyway. Bogie, as always, was great comfort.

With the Bogarts, on whom she accidentally urinated on the set of The African Queen, but who remained two of her very best friends

Sleeping on the set of The Millionairess on top of the lines she should be studying

Technicolor Christmas with the beloved 

I wonder how this picture was taken, but I know it looks awesome. 

Koala love in 1955

Caught in the rain

She got so sick during The African Queen that she lost 15 pounds. Notice how thin she looks.

Battling wits with Elizabeth Taylor

Niece love in 1967

On their last days together, she was a tower of strength

With her good friend Peter O'Toole. And the Oscars keep pouring in...

Parading around with no feet on the set of The Lion in Winter

Flooring Dick Cavett in his own show. "Cold sober, I find myself absolutely fascinating!"

Academy Award winning twosome

Sailing by herself at age 79

Receiving a kiss from The Voice in the emotional evening of A Tribute to Spencer Tracy

In A Tribute to Spencer Tracy nearly 20 years after his death. She would go on to outlive him by 36 years almost to the day. 

Age? Doesn't stop her from carrying her own tree branches!

Boating around in Fenwick very near her 80th birthday

This is magnificent: Performing a headstand at age 79.

Independence in all stages of her life

Looking quite beautiful, even at age 82.

Crying at the standing ovation she received on "A Tribute to Katharine Hepburn", on the Kennedy Center, in 1990.

Shuffling snow at age 85

With the self-explanatory sign in her Fenwick home

A triumph: Living 'til 96 years of age

These are some of the many reasons why the simple sight of this woman puts a smile on my face.
Rest in peace, Kate. 

So long,

P.S. "Life can be wildly tragic at times, and I've had my share. But whatever happens to you, you have to keep a slightly comic attitude. In the final analysis, you have got not to forget to laugh."

Special Movie Monday: Psycho and The Master of Suspense

Yes, Psycho is the perfect film. 

I must have watched it hundreds of times now, frantically looking for flaws. A boring scene, a misplaced line, a facial expression that changed just a few micro-seconds earlier than it should. I couldn't find one single thing. Psycho is the perfect film. 

It did not have the perfect actors. I think of only a handful of actors can be described as so (the likes of Spencer Tracy, perhaps? Lucille Ball was the perfect comedian, Bette Davis the perfect villain. Perfection is not at all easy to find.) It did not have the perfect studio settings. I don't know that there is one, but the Universal Studios back lot is hardly it. However, it did have the perfect director. I don't know how or why that was, but the flawed and imperfect cast and crew came together in a timeless masterpiece, that has survived decades and will survive centuries. With a seemingly simple plot line, with a twist that makes every hair in your arm jerk up, acting that swizzles your muscles entirely and a black and white atmosphere that has everyone on the edge of their seat. The truth is that Psycho was never expected to be a work of art. In fact, it wasn't expected to be a success at all. 
Alfred Hitchcock was very disappointed when Audrey Hepburn, one of the biggest stars of the day, had a miscarriage in the late 1950s. Hitch looked forward to directing the then 30-year-old actress, who he had heard was an absolute delight to work with, always having her lines on the tip of her tongue and accepting directions like an obedient child. Audrey herself was thrilled at the perspective of working with the famous mind behind Notorious, Rear Window, North by Northwest and Vertigo. After her miscarriage, she got pregnant again and her doctor advised her to stay in bed rest throughout nearly the whole pregnancy. She would not be able to work in 1959. What to do? 
Then, something wonderful happened. Hitch came across a fascinating novel, by a young actor named Robert Bloch that had recently been published: "Psycho". Astounded by the interesting plot, Hitchcock's film-making  mind saw through the pages and envisioned a movie that would be very easy and cheap to make, but that would end up being a smashing hit. Hitch anonymously contacted Robert Bloch and offered him nine thousand dollars for the movie rights. Without the slightest idea that it was the master of suspense on the other side of the phone, Psycho was sold.
From then on, Alfred Hitchcock began a lofty quest to make movie magic work as cheap and easy as he could possibly make it. Black and white, in the backlot studios, the biggest amount of money he spent at once was buying every single copy of "Psycho" he could find. He wanted to keep the ending a secret. He picked non-A listers as actors and waived his salary for 60% of the proceeds.
Smart move. Hitchcock made a fortune.
The plot consists of a beautiful young woman, played by Janet Leigh, who is in a life she doesn't care very much for. She is a secretary at a real estate agency, a desk job that doesn't fulfill her at all. She has a boyfriend who keeps putting off the day he will propose to her. She feels she has no excitement whatsoever to live for. That is, until a very rich client shows up at her agency and hands her boss forty thousand dollars in live cash. Corrected by inflation, that would add up to nearly half a million dollars. Her boss relies on his trusty secretary to go deposit the amount. She ends up running away with all that cash, looking to turn her life around. When she spends the night on a motel on the side of the road, she finds its friendly owner is not who he appears to be. Pure suspense gold
There are many subtle touches to the final product in which Hitchcock's hand is discernible. Marion Crane, Leigh's character, didn't have clothes custom-made my the costume department. She wore off the rack. Hitch wanted women everywhere to identify with her and he wasn't gonna do it by dressing her in Edith Head from head to toe. On the first scene, she is shown wearing a white bra, her face looking natural and angelic. After she steals the money, her makeup is slightly heavier and she is wearing a black bra as if her purity was tainted by the terrible act she had just committed. 
Many quotes of "Psycho" went on to being very famous: "Mother! Blood!" and "A boy's best friend is his mother." are some of the creepiest. 
Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh delivered the best performances of their lives. All for a movie no one but its intrepid director believed in. 

Psycho grossed 40 million dollars, 50 times its cost of production. Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar. 

So long,

This is my contribution to the Universal Backlot Blogathon!