Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Dear Norma,

My dear Norma,
I call you that because I want to address the innermost part of you, and not because I don’t think you were Marilyn Monroe in essence, because I do. I think Marilyn Monroe was asleep for most of your life, stardom just awakened that part of you that perhaps you didn’t know yourself. I wish I was there when your life ended, Norma, because I want to know whether you ended it or not. And if not, I want to know who dared turn off such a light, who dared take down such a powerful force, who thought himself to be greater than the great Marilyn Monroe. Maybe you were the only one who was strong enough to do it. Maybe you were the only one who wanted to do it. Because, believe it or not, Norma Jeane, you had so much to live for. I know you were fighting an internal battle with your own mind, but there were so many people who were gladly willing to endure it with you. If you killed yourself you obviously didn’t recognize that properly.
I bring news. People still remember you. Your memory has not even begun to drift off and I am sure for at least a century after your death, you will still be remembered. How could it be different? You were iconic, you were a constructed ideal that brought together everything every man wanted to have and every woman wanted to be. Maybe that’s what killed you. Marilyn was too much of a hurricane for you to bear. Before you came to grips with who you were as Norma Jeane, what your past consisted of and what your future reserved for you, you had to become someone else entirely, someone out of your control, someone you didn’t necessarily want to be. And what I regret to say, dear, is that people remember Marilyn. People do not remember Norma.
That teenage girl that looked like the sculpture of an angel, getting married to escape foster care, modeling her silver white skin to make fifty bucks, who was at war with her own family, with her own desires, with her own mind; that girl is gone. That girl began to die with you on that hot night in August and she will continue to be killed slowly and painfully every time a lie about you is spread. That girl had a personality and a life story that did not match the legend she was forced into. She grew up hearing she was not the type of person who could afford to dream higher. Dreams cost money - of which she had none - and talent - of which she had plenty, but was too busy with survival to even begin to explore it. What catapulted her into fame was her extraordinary beauty, her star quality, her ability to catch the eye. She had perfect timing; she brought exactly what they were looking for, when and how they were looking for it. And so they created a lasting memory: One of a sex symbol, one of a mindless beauty, one of a strong, confident woman whose curves have the power to cure anything. What a digression from the shy, insecure Norma Jeane you always were. They dyed your hair platinum blonde and gave you a red lipstick. I bet you looked in the mirror and wondered who that was.
What you didn’t know, Norma, is that this dehumanization you suffered so early on in your life, eliminating your original personality from the public eye, would be the start of a much greater dehumanization you would suffer after death. You were intelligent, you had a business-oriented mind, and you built your own success from the ground up. You criticized your producers – so much so that you started to produce independently! Becoming as famous as you were - and are - is in itself a dehumanizing experience. But what they've done to you is build an empire based on lies. And now you are seen by a generation far younger than your own as a promiscuous, self-exploiting wannabe. How ironic that your ability to love and to be loved back so easily has been overlooked. I’ve seen so many teenage girls say they want to look like Marilyn, they want to be able to seduce like Marilyn, but I’ve never heard anyone say they wanted to love like Marilyn. Truth is, one kiss on the forehead from you and we’d all be on our knees. What’s more, you were so good at loving that it ended in naivety, in trusting too much all the wrong people.

As the years go by, society becomes increasingly frivolous and sex becomes more and more the only thing that sells. Thus, the image conjured from your memory seems to cater perfectly to what the masses are asking for. And with your 50th death anniversary approaching, how fitting that the Marilyn craze should have a comeback. And a comeback riddled with misquotes, wrong data and the overall manipulation of your story to make you seem like something you never were.  
I would like to end this letter with a promise, Norma. I promise to keep your reality alive. I promise to defend you whenever your memory is assaulted. Because despite anything, you had what many people struggle to get and most die without: It is not sex appeal, it is not beauty, it is hope. It was the light at the end of your tunnel, a light you died trying desperately to reach. But you gave the world everything you had to give, and the world never gave any of it back.
With all my love,

Monday, 30 July 2012

Movie Monday! "The African Queen" (1951)

It was summer. The year was 1950. A pre-jet set aeroplane lands on Leopoldville, Belgian Congo. In it was a fearless director, an actress fascinated by life, an actor intolerant to weakness and a wife with plenty of love to give. As they left through the front door, the actress flew by avoiding the photographers, the married couple walked calmly throwing tiny smiles to the cameras and the director stared up in amazement of that enormous empty canvas he called Africa. They were about to film one of the greatest adventures ever created, and, behind the camera, they would live one even greater.
Houston and Bogart
John Huston was a famed director among Hollywood circles and not only for his talent: Besides being an eccentric in many ways, he had a special fondness for filming in god-forsaken, nearly inaccessible places. He and Bogie had been good friends since “High Sierra”, so when producer Sam Spiegel approached him with a story by C.S. Forrester, which he was more than willing to make into a movie, he was certain that Humphrey Bogart would be the man for the job. Strong-gutted, professional and ruthlessly intolerant to actors who let anything get in the way of their work, Bogie was already a silver screen star by then, and, with films such as “To Have and Have Not”, “Casablanca” and “The Petrified Forest” already in his repertoire, it was absurd that he hadn’t yet gotten his Academy Award. Bogie, fueled by liquor and an unprecedented passion for acting, had no problem traveling for his pictures with the only condition that his wife, breathtaking blonde Lauren Bacall, was with him at all times. Bogart immediately said yes to the role and embarked a separation from their one-year-old son. As a leading lady, Huston would eventually snatch Ms. Katharine Houghton Hepburn.
Perhaps one of the most notorious personalities in Hollywood history, Katharine Hepburn was the epitome of the “new woman”. A no-nonsense tower of strength who carried her own suitcases to Africa, with intimidating eyes and downward lips, she had an austere-looking appearance. With only a hint of sadness in her eyes – her nearly debilitating love for Spencer Tracy, from whom she would be separated – she was ready for anything. Her strong personality clashed with Bogie’s, whose excessive liquor consumption she outspokenly disapproved of, but they shared a mutual admiration for each other’s world-renowned talent and professionalism. They yearned to be the same kind of actor, and, progressively, that ideal united them in a close friendship.
As a seemingly unnecessary addition to the dream team, was Mrs. Bogart, or actress Lauren Bacall, who was only there to accompany and assist her husband on his journey. Nonetheless, Bacall’s presence became crucial when the cast and crew encountered unexpected problems every day: She became an improvised nurse in the outbreak of dysentery by which Hepburn was particularly victimized; she cooked, cleaned and promptly tended to the needs of everyone and anyone on set. It was also her who registered in amateur films the goings-on from behind the oversized Technicolor cameras, providing the ultimate insight into the making of The African Queen. 
Bogart, Bacall and Hepburn, upon arrival in Africa
The movie was based on a short story by C.S. Forrester, published in 1935. It was adapted to the screen by James Agee and set in motion by producer Sam Spiegel. It depicted a British missionary by the name of Rose Sayer, played by Katharine Hepburn, living in the Belgian Congo in order to offer first hand assistance to the poverty-stricken pre-World War I Africa. Also having taken residence in the Congo is a captain named Charles Allnut, who had a special ability to pilot the steamboat African Queen. When the Germans invaded the area, Allnut and Sayer, both being British Commonwealth subjects, feared for their lives. Their only choice was to run away by water, aboard the African Queen. Taken by a mixture of adrenaline and patriotic spirit, Rose makes the decision along the journey that they were to sink the German battleship Louisa with hand-made torpedoes, hence clearing the coast from the Kaiser’s war force for their home army to counterattack. Together, they experience incomparable adventures and a great love starts to grow between them.
There is much to be analyzed on this 1951 masterpiece. Both Bogart and Hepburn delivered pitch perfect, albeit unusual performances. Hepburn was your textbook Catholic missionary: chaste, strict and of impeccable morals. “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.” She tells Bogie’s character, when he tries to justify his bottle-popping as human nature. At the start of the picture, she even shows submission, first to her clergyman brother than to Charlie Allnut. Allnut, in addition, was also an unusual character for Bogart. A Canadian turn of the century homeboy, who mentions his “poor old mother” every five minutes and encounters difficulties to keep up with Sayer’s religious or seemingly intellectual musings. Not a hint of the gangster film noir melodrama made famous by “The Maltese Falcon”. Bogart was presented with a much-belated Academy Award, considered by many a mark of his versatility and by others a consolation prize for a lifetime of unrecognized achievements. It is unlikely, however, that the latter was reason enough to beat Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, also on the running for the Oscar.
The African adventure was a great bonding experience for Bogart and Huston – one shared over daily doses of alcohol. Bacall and Hepburn, however, began their lifelong friendship in quite the opposite way: they were both enervated by the men’s deadly habit and made a point of drinking strictly water in front of them. The water quality in Africa, however, was poor, leading to an epidemic of dysentery that victimized almost the entire cast and crew: with the exception of Bogie and Huston, whose stomachs were sterilized by the whisky. 
Bogart won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Charlie Allnut. Hepburn
was also nominated, but lost to Vivien Leigh on "A Streetcar Named Desire"
Speaking of water, despite popular misconception, the movie was not filmed in its entirety in Africa. Because the water on the Ulanga River was so contaminated, the scenes where Bogart walks through the mud and emerges with leeches on his entire body had to be filmed in an artificial body of water in London, England. Some of the more complex scenes on the boat were shot using a green screen, also in London.
It’s almost strange to see Hepburn out of her khakis and the emphatic avant-garde speech giving place to bible verses and conservative statements. It’s just as unusual to see Bogie in Technicolor, without his fedora, flattering lighting or his sultry enunciation of witty lines. The African Queen was considered one of the best films in history. Its quality is stupefying considering the conditions under which it was made. So life turning was the experience that it resulted in all kinds of personal consequences, the most lasting of which a lifelong friendship between The Bogarts, John Huston and Katharine Hepburn. To speak of such people and not speak of The African Queen is no easy task. The unforgettably thrilling madness the foursome brought upon themselves was explored by Hepburn on her first published book. Its title was as self-explanatory as any title ever needed to be. “How I Went to Africa with Bogie, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind". 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

How did I fall in love with History?

Children reading in the Victorian Era
São Paulo, Brazil. Population: 20 million. (Not my city, by the way. I won't be revealing my city, since, in case you haven't noticed, this is the internet.) My parents, my sister and my soon-to-be-five-year-old self were on a trip to visit some family members living there and we took the opportunity to visit some of the touristic attractions in this enormous city. One night, there was to be a musical play directed especially for children about the discovery of Brazil. There is still some light to be shed at the discovery of Brazil, in 1500, and some unsolved mysteries are really fascinating. I, as a four-year-old, found myself as interested in that play as I was when my dad told me bedtime fairy tales set in the Middle Age, and that I later discovered reflected many aspects of that era. After the show, bewildered by what I had just seen, I asked my dad to tell me more about the story. He, seeing an opportunity to interest his daughter on a highly productive hobby, stimulated my passion for history as much as he could: He bought the CD for the musical play we'd just seen, he bought history books for children, he made my grandfather, an amateur art historian, talk to me about what he knew. Perhaps I was a little overwhelmed as a child, but as time went by, I discovered a passion.
Later on, from the time when I was about 10 years old, I already distinguished myself in history in school. In fifth grade, I met a fascinating history teacher, who was only 20 at the time, and his classes were absolute heaven to me. I could picture everything he was saying because his approach to history was highly cultural and sociological, rather than spouting facts at our faces. I had the pleasure of being taught by this amazing man for three years and we remain good friends, sharing our love of history whenever we can. 
Lovely darlings sunbathing on the beach in the early fifties

It was then when I became an admirer of the twentieth century. I love how crucial it was to the world as we know it today and I love its cultural richness that fits virtually every taste. As I deepened my knowledge on it, I became particularly fond of the thirties, forties and fifties, especially the post-second world war period. It was a period of social revolution, standard-dropping and economic growth. I started frantically exploring its music, falling in love with early rock'n'roll and blues. Fashion came later as I reached my teenage years. Finally, movies from that period fascinated me like a whirlwind. 
Some of the positive sides of the late forties and early fifties include: First, its mainstream media was far more careful than it is today. Things that were smashing hits in those decades have survived the test of time and remain very very good. Today, we don’t experience the same care and trashiness has taken over. This also reflects in one highly commented aspect of the post-war society: female submission. Seeing today's male-oriented media deteriorating female image into self-selling sexual objects makes one wonder how much we have evolved since the Lucy Ricardo housewife ideal, who I'm positive respected herself 100% more than the half-naked chick on the beer commercial. 
Secondly, it was a time when love and companionship was more valued than sex. Of course, it was also a time when some topics were perhaps less discussed, but honestly, I don’t think sex is any less of a taboo today than it was back then in seeing that the fifties experienced advances in sexual openness and today people are more nosy and less polite. Love was put in a very high position in society and media, in comparison to sex. 
Thirdly, they were times that experienced a crucial revolution: The invention of the teenager. Young people, eager to change the standards of a segregated, prejudicial society. It was on the late forties and early fifties that youngsters kicked off their revolution culturally, forging an individual identity with their specific music, their specific clothes and their specific lifestyles. That quiet start would peak politically in the sixties' generation.
Fourthly, environmental, traffic and other problems that come hand in hand with overpopulation were almost non-existent, since overpopulation itself would be a thing of the future. On the contrary, it was a time of great scientific evolution and growth! The technological remainders of the war along with the West's desire to beat the East and vice-versa allowed for an enormous scientific rush, that gave medicine, physics, chemistry and pharmacy discoveries that we profit from today. 
Fifthly and most importantly, it was a time of great joie de vivre. War is over, we’re alive, let’s celebrate it. Labor unions were strong enough to lead the middle class of the day to a position of power and kept the economy strong. Of course that led to a series of problems including mass consumption and mindless "fun", but it did leave countless cultural contributions. 

How cute is Lucille Ball in this cigarette ad?
It is important, however, to not look at this time in history through rose colored glasses. To me, the worst aspect of it was the health of its people. Tobacco-smoking was widespread, not just a thing of the ladies, or a thing of the fellas, or a thing of the rebels: It was a thing of everyone. The effects of cigarettes on the human body weren't discovered and firmed until later on, so this deadly habit was all but a rule among the society of the forties and fifties. Drinking was also not regarded appropriately, but it was viewed as more detrimental than cigarette-smoking. All those endless packs of Philip Morris did lead to loads of cancer and, I regret to say, medicine was not so evolved back then. Treatments and diagnostics today are, thank God, far better. Nevertheless, it is true that the fifties' economic revolution, women's debut in the workplace and post-war technology allowed for an all-time high evolution in science, and consequently, medicine. Out with the Polio and in with the pacemakers, that non-healthy status changed by the second.

The other aspect of which I'm highly contemptuous is the high racial, sexual and social segregation. Despite financial inequality being less overwhelming than it is today due to the vivid economy of the period, whatever difference that did exist was made sure to be advertised, spoken of and prided from. Racism was disgusting in that era and it's one aspect that no love of history can sugarcoat. Gender roles were also a strong part of the average society, but much lighter than the racial hatred. Women were starting to take their place on the workforce and the media. Of course female scientists and business women were rare exceptions, but to say that the average fifties woman was stuck in a loveless marriage, taking care of children they didn't want, in a sad life altogether is clearly a rather common effort to make that time period look like hell in comparison to the current times and facilitate impunity to sexual inequality today. What most people overlook is that female repression is overwhelmingly present today as well, only it presents itself in a different façade: Reducing women to beauty standards, sexual objects, mindless dolls. If you think we are living much more differently then we did in the fifties, think again when you see the next internet article on Condoleeza Rice's new hairdo or the TV piece wondering where Hillary Clinton gets her youthful looks. Hell, think again when you see the next liquor commercial. 

All in all, the past is the best way to gather lessons from mistakes without having to make them yourself. Draw inspiration from the good sides of that period. Appreciate its culture, be glad to be alive, respect your body and your fellow man, be polite in your words and individual in your thoughts and you will be channeling the post-war society. Stay away from the bad sides. Be tolerant with the differences, stay healthy and independent as a female and you will be profiting from what's best of today. 

So long,

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Great Recasting Blogathon

Hello, my pals and gals! This is my contribution to The Great Recasting Blogathon, hosted by Rianna, at Frankly, My Dear and Natalie, at In the Mood.
The idea behind this blogathon is very simple: We each pick one movie from after 1965 that we particularly like and recast it with stars that had their heydays before 1965. So, how's about we get going?

The King's Speech was a movie directed by Tom Hooper, awarded with 4 Oscars, including Best Picture in 2010. It tells the story of a distressed king, with the heart of a lion and an uncontrollable need to be of use to his country, but that suffers from extreme insecurity due to a stuttering problem, that keeps him from delivering speeches to his people. With the outbreak of World War I that coincidentally came accompanied with a family crisis, he finds his people need him more than ever. With the help of an idealistic doctor and a loving wife, the king rises above his disabilities and writes his name in history. I picked this movie because as a classic film fan, I could not stand to see my favorite actors and actresses in a mediocre picture. I chose "The King's Speech" because it is an excellent production all around, with a fabulous original cast, exquisite writing and a very creative storyline. I see "The King's Speech" as one of the very few movies of the current day worthy of having the classic stars. 

The recast is as follows:

King George VI, originally played by Colin Firth, is recast as Spencer Tracy (1900-1967)

The Queen Mother, originally played by Helena Bonham Carter is recast as Katharine Hepburn (1907-2003)

Dr. Lionel Logue M.B.E., originally cast as Geoffrey Rush is recast as James Stewart (1908-1997)

I thought about this recast after watching the film "State of the Union", one of the exceptional productions of the Tracy-Hepburn duo. In this picture, Tracy plays a rather corrupted chief of state, who is willing to achieve power at any cost. His dishonesty in his political life reflects on his personal life: He cheats on his wife, Katharine Hepburn, regularly. Katharine plays a resentful first lady, who disapproves of her husband's ways but is too submissive to react. I wanted to see the same story, but with the values completely inverted. Spencer as a strong chief of a state, but this time an honest one. Katharine as a first lady, but this time a strong one. The film had the sort of witty writing that was just right for the pair and the fabulous love that  united them would present just the right amount of chemistry. Also, the story of the king and queen presents a poetic similarity to that of Spencer and Kate. The king, beloved and needed by his people, overtaken by a disability, takes solace in a strong-gutted first lady. As did Spencer: On his alcoholic crisis, he clung tight to the First Lady of Cinema, who, lovingly, tended to him. Colin Firth won the Academy Award for his portrayal of the king, but there is no doubt in my mind that Spencer Tracy could do just as good a job.
I cast James Stewart as Dr. Logue because he strikes me as the perfect combination of ruthlessness and understanding for the character. His range of emotion is so magnificent that he is able to show his rigor and austerity, like in the picture above, still conserving a certain sweetness in his eyes. I'm sure Stewart would've delivered a fine performance, worthy of an Academy Award. 

The movie is to be set around 1947. Katharine would be 40 years old, but as usual look 5 years younger. Spencer would be a beaten-down 47-year-old, already feeling the effects of his lifelong liquor addition. He would appear to be 10 to 15 years older than Hepburn, as it is evidenced in "Adam's Rib", picture filmed just two years later. James Stewart would perhaps be too young for his character at 39, but he would rely on makeup to age his features. 

So, what do you think, pals and gals? Do you agree with my recast? Is there any movies you would like to recast yourself? Leave me a comment in the comment box!
See you guys next time!

So long,

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Betty: The life of a star

Lights out, silence please. The movie is about to start. Halfway across the room, sits a child, fists pressed in excitement, her tiny heart pounding out of her chest. She is eight years old, but for the last few weeks she has been saving up her allowance penny by penny. When the screen lights up she recognizes that face instantly. Oh, Bette! I would give anything to be like you! The movie flies by like a lightning and after it, she just sits there soaking up the energy and magic of the movies.
Betty Bacall reached up to her mother’s hand and, together, they walked back to reality. Reality, to that 8-year-old, was called Brooklyn, New York, where she lived with her Uncle Charlie and her mother Natalie. Dream higher was the motto in the Bacall household and encouragement was the law. The faith in little Betty’s talent was never shaken. When Betty Joan Perske, was born a Jewish baby on both sides, on September 16th 1924, her mother’s marriage to bottle-popping William Perske could barely stand on its feet. It took surprising six years for Perske to finally flee, leaving wife and daughter unattended. But the strong woman that was Natalie Perske quickly changed the family name to her maiden name Bacall and was ready to move on. All the while, Betty was living in a world of her own, every day with a dream shining vividly in her heart: to be on the stage. Every year that went by, Betty was a more distinguished and honored member of her school’s drama club. Teachers were impressed at her talent, and recommended that her mother enrolled her on a prestigious acting academy, where the likes of Kirk Douglas paved his way to stardom. Classes were to take place on Saturday mornings as to not interfere with Betty’s academic preparation, and she was to work with the best teachers in New York City. What could possibly go wrong?
Betty Bacall, photographed in 1942, at 17 years of age

What went wrong is that Betty could get any job in the world - except an acting one. Now a teenager, she was growing increasingly frustrated when her talent, so recognized by schoolteachers and acting coaches, seemed to go unnoticed by the theatrical scene in New York. Modeling, yes, she was good at that. Pretty face, strong eyes, good body, no need to be trimmed and plucked to perfection. But it was not what she wanted. After several exhausting photo shoots and years of broken dreams going by, Betty found herself with a twofold opportunity: A leading role in the small production Claudia, and a centerfold feature on the oh-so-glamorous Harper’s Bazaar. She took both. The play flopped, but the magazine was a smashing hit. “Young actress Betty Bacall on the cover”, it read. She didn’t know it yet, but that cover and that caption would make a world of difference in her life.
What was it that attracted Slim Hawks, wife of Hollywood mogul Howard Hawks, to that skinny teenager on the cover of that magazine? Where resided her power to attract attention, to turn heads, to light up a room? Nowadays, some call it, much simply, “it”. But, over the decades, no one was able to put a finger on what “it” is. Betty Bacall had “it”. And only a few months after she blew eighteen candles on her cake, she was all alone in a train to Hollywood, on her way to meet Howard Hawks, with the possibility of a silver screen contract. The theatre, Betty thought, could wait.
Howard Hawks had always dreamed of building his ideal woman. Since he became a movie producer, he fantasized about finding a young girl, who he could mold into an unreal image he himself had painted, carefully and precisely. And in Betty Bacall he saw the face, the body, the sultry magnetism and subdued sexuality he had envisioned. The magazine said she was a young actress. A few screen tests later and the youngster was under personal contract. Bacall – like Hawks – was thrilled.
Betty’s dreams were coming true at such an overwhelming speed that the teen started to question if she was up to the task. In her first picture, Papa Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not, a leading role, starring opposite one of the best actors of her day: Either Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart. Cary Grant, she thought, was irresistibly handsome and a thrill to work with. Bogart on the other hand… Too bad for Betty, Bogart was the chosen one.
Filming started on the fall of 1943. Her insecurities almost took the best of her, and Bogie did everything he could to make her feel at ease. As it turned out, the twosome hit it off faster than a bullet, and before anyone realized, they were like old friends. While Betty recorded her singing scene with Hoagy Carmichael, Hawks and producer Charlie Feldman discussed a new name for her. How about Lauren? Looks good on a marquee! Lauren Bacall she is. And thus a star was born. 
Three weeks into filming and Bogie visited her co-star’s trailer to whisper his wishes of good night, as usual. But, this time, he put two fingers under her chin, and, looking far into her retinas, gave her a kiss. Oh, the fireworks! Oh, the butterflies! That married, 44-year-old man made her teenage heart take flight! Love and fame were both catapulted into Betty’s life at the same incredible speed. Was she equally prepared for both? Was she prepared at all? Before she could find out, she was a glamour girl in love, with no idea of what to do next. What’s more, since she told him all he had to do was whistle, he was on his knees. He loved his Baby – that’s what he called her – just as much as she loved him.
Betty, still incredulous at her superstar boyfriend (and her superstar self!)
But he was married! A troubled marriage certainly - he and his wife were known as “The Battling Bogarts” - but a marriage still! How could they be together? Bogie and Bacall started a secret romance, of moonlit meetings and ardent love letters. Five in the morning, hair blowing in the wind, she would run to her lover, who waited in a god-forsaken corner of a god-forsaken road somewhere outside of L.A. They would hold each other all night, until the sun came up and brought reality back with it. Back home to the alcoholic wife for Bogie, and to being a lonely teen for Betty. But, with the obligatory distance, the love in their hearts only grew uncontrollably strong. They could no longer live apart. After more sweat and tears than any couple in love should have to endure, they were married on May 21st 1945, in a good friend’s farm in Ohio. It was all bliss from then on. By then, they had already starred another hit picture: The Big Sleep, delightful whodunit based on the work of Raymond Chandler.
In 1948, Bogie found out he would be a father at the age of 49: Betty was expecting a baby boy. Steve, as they ultimately called him, after Bogie’s character on To Have and Have Not. Their second swell addition to the clan came in 1952, and it answered to Leslie, after Leslie Howard, Bogie’s friend and early mentor. 
Bogie and Baby, at wedding anniversary numero uno
But, before Leslie even came into this world, precisely on the summer of 1950, both Bogie and Katharine Hepburn were lured by John Houston to board an aeroplane to sunny Leopoldville, Belgian Congo where a picture set in the deep hearts of Africa was to be shot. Betty went along simply to accompany her husband, and ended up acting as a cook, a nurse and a confidante of a distressed cast and crew, encountering any number of problems, from dysentery that nearly caused Ms. Hepburn to go back home to a leaky bathroom straight over the Bogarts’ bed. The Bogarts, Katharine, and eventually Katharine’s beau Spencer Tracy, became great pals.  It was a life of many trips for Mrs. Bogart, as her husband was taken on various locations and she went along, providing moral support and unconditional love. She was exulting to be able to live that life with the man she adored – and who worshipped her above all things – and she couldn’t imagine what would happen if it ended. Only it did.
In 1956, Humphrey Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and she devotedly nursed him for a whole year. The prospect of her husband’s death meant the end of her world. She would be a widow at 32 and was so devastated by what was about to happen that she thought she would never be the same again. Three weeks after Bogie’s fifty-seventh birthday, he passed away. Betty, alone with two small children, was more desperate than ever.
She eventually would find a shoulder to cry on – and what a shoulder – that of Mr. Frank Sinatra. An old friend of the family, he had supported them through sickness and health and was ready to keep supporting Lady Bogart, perhaps even more than before. The two experienced a quick, flaming romance. He took her mind off the horror of losing Bogie and offered her a moment of peace, a loving hug and the possibility to live someone else’s life for a few brief seconds. Betty also provided Frank with more support than he liked to admit. He, too, had lost his love: Ava Gardner, to divorce. The relationship, however, did not survive a misunderstanding involving a newspaper. The pair broke it off after six months.
Perhaps the sexiest couple ever to grace the face of the earth: Bacall and Sinatra
In 1961, began a marriage that Betty speaks little about, one to actor Jason Robards. At the wedding, a very small celebration, rather deprived of glamour, the judge of peace did not believe Bacall was a widow. He demanded to see a death certificate despite Bogie’s death having been highly publicized. A turbulent wedding kicked off a turbulent marriage. The marriage produced, however, one son, Sam Robards, Betty’s pride and joy to date. As the late sixties approached and so did the end of her marriage, a crisis struck her circle of friends. Spencer Tracy, the joker, the life of the party, had died from a heart attack. Katharine Hepburn was crushed to the ground and needed all the help she could get to climb back on her feet. Betty was a very trusted friend and an instrumental part of Katharine’s recovery. So much so that the two women ended up not having any more serious romantic involvements in their lives. Kate all but willingly, Betty otherwise.
So much had happened that Betty had almost forgotten what her initial dream was: To be an actress on the stage. What reminded her was an unexpected proposal: Broadway! The musical “Applause”, to be precise, an adaptation of the movie “All about Eve”, starring her beloved idol Bette Davis. She accepted in a heartbeat and performed so memorably she wound up being presented with a Tony Award later that year. Various plays figure on Betty’s repertoire, the most notorious of which being, after Applause, Woman of the Year, in which she played Tess Harding, a character previously played by Katharine Hepburn in the 1942 movie version. She would beat Hepburn for the Tony Award forty years later.
Lauren Bacall performing on Broadway, in 1970

As her children grew up, and the people in her life started to pass (her mother, in 1969, Leonard Bernstein, in 1990, Frank Sinatra, in 1998), Betty refused to believe her life was reaching its twilight. She felt – and feels – that as long as she has a working head and a beating heart, there is much more she can offer the world. She was proved right when her first book “By Myself”, an autobiography published in 1978, won the National Book Award. Her story is thrilling and her writing style is impeccable. Her second novel “Now”, published in 1994, was less in the autobiographic side and revealed a wiser, older Betty, who wrote in a nearly self-help voice sharing the lessons she gathered in her then 70-year life. “By Myself” was republished with a few additional chapters in 2003, after Katharine Hepburn, the last standing pillar of her youthful life, passed away.
Betty Bacall is 87 years old as of September of 2011 and lives alone in New York City, in an apartment she has owned for almost forty years in the infamous Dakota Building. As if she hadn’t witnessed history enough, in 1980, when former Beatle John Lennon was murdered, she is said to have woken up to the shots. Her son Stephen is a real estate agent in Naples, Leslie is a Los Angeles based yoga instructor and Sam is an actor on the Hollywood screen.
Lights out, silence please. The movie is about to start. Halfway across the room, sits an elderly woman, fists pressed in excitement, her heart pounding out of her chest. She is eighty years old, but she still remembers that day as if it were yesterday. You know how to whistle, don’t you? The memories are clear as a cloudless morning. When the screen lights up, she recognizes that face instantly. Oh, Betty! I would give anything to be like you again!
With grown-up children and lost friends and lovers, Betty Bacall's face shows nothing but strength. 

The remaining Bacalls

Betty, eternalized. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Music Monday! "Don't Rain on My Parade"

Hello there, pals and gals!
Don't get me wrong: I adore Barbara Streisand. Her voice is brilliant and she has done some really amazing work. But, to me, Judy Garland shines absolutely solely.
Being a longtime musical film fan myself, I have listened to many artists sing the most beautiful songs ever written. I'm particularly fond of Julie Andrews, Barbara Streisand, Liza Minelli, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly. But, the first I heard Somewhere Over The Rainbow on Judy Garland's voice, I was hooked. A single song had never made me cry before, and nothing seemed so compelling and moving like that song.
Now, I'm posting here Judy and Liza's version of "Don't Rain on My Parade", a song from the musical "Funny Girl", with Barbara Streisand. They were so great together and their love for each other shined through their voices. This is my favorite version of this song, and I identify a great deal with the lyrics.

So long,

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


A poem by me

When the night falls like teardrops from the pitch black sky
with no escape from the fog that comes clouding your eyes
and the world twirls in horror at the endless wintertime
he kisses death in the face and she feels privately defied
He pulled dreams out of thin air
He made fascination from despair
He made history, and, without a care
Left a little of him there
He despised the unrealistically tense
And took only what wasn’t pretence 
And when each drop of blood cost him fifty pence
He became the world’s master of suspense
The world was astonished with the words of the Swede
“An adorable genius” was the one to beat
When he told her to “fake it”, if it wasn’t so neat
She, with all of her might, was down at his feet
As the years, in silence, made their way
He made the wings of the birds beat like hearts in pain
He made your neighbor close his back window in vain
And a simple shower enough to drive anyone insane
He found a friend and a star he set free
 A pair of eyes warmer than a cup of early tea
They had talent as the world never failed to agree
And the eyes shined even brighter than his name on a marquee
He had a princess on the palm of his hand
A delicate flower that made herself his friend
Her perfect smile sparkled ‘til the end
And there was no broken heart her Grace couldn’t mend
He had a ruthless exterior, but inside of his heart
There was character that could not be torn apart
And with every new movie that he was to start
From the horror he built he couldn’t be further apart
And when his actors were applauded and loved every day
He sighed and he whispered “it had to be this way”
His skin was melting down and his hair was going gray
Let the real stars shine all the way
But what he didn’t know how to turn off the switch
Of the eternal light of a life so rich
He was the real star, one he built, every single stitch
He was all, he was it, he was Hitch

Monday, 16 July 2012

Katharine Hepburn, the Golden Age and the rise of feminism

Hello there, pals and gals! So, no Movie Monday today because of a very special reason. I am posting my contest entry for  Film-Classics.com writing contest. I would love some feedback on this, because I wanna win this thing so bad! Here we go:

Katharine Houghton Hepburn. Today, the simple mention of that name evokes 96 years of sounds, sights and memories, but by the outbreak of World War I, no one could predict the impact she would have on the world. Growing up in Fenwick, Connecticut, Kathy was an absolute tomboy. One summer, she chopped off her own hair over the kitchen sink and, putting on one of her brother’s rompers, called herself Jimmy. This innocent childhood chronicle was a manifestation of what would later define her character: a desire to be equal to the persons of the male sex. Katharine’s mother, however, was already practicing that desire in a more serious way. Since the birth of her first child, she had been questioning her own position in the world. Was she, a woman of such intelligence and determination, meant to be a housewife and a housewife only? She had listened to a speech by British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and had been largely inspired. Her husband, a rarity, fully supported his wife’s ideals.
Votes for women! Katharine the senior soon became the leader suffragette for the state of Connecticut. In all her campaigns, her daughter and namesake would carry balloons, posters and pamphlets. Discussions were always encouraged in the Hepburn household, and because Dr. and Mrs. Hepburn took pride on having an extensive academic background, their children’s education was always rich. At seventeen years old, in 1924, Katie was sent to Bryn Mawr College, one of the most prestigious colleges for dames in the United States. A trouser-wearing, free-thinking flapper, Katharine pursued a double major in philosophy and history.
When she graduated, in 1928, her dream was to become an actress on the silver screen. She saw herself as a star that had yet to show the world her shine. To do so, she would give up marriage, children and a home. In Katie’s mind, however, she was not sacrificing anything. Au contraire, she found society’s ideals of womanhood to be a bore. At 21, she took a shot at marriage with her long-time boyfriend Ludlow Odgen Smith, who loved her devotedly. It failed after five years, and Kate knew it was her admitted selfishness that did the trick. What many have failed to understand over the decades was, regardless of how important her domestic example was, feminism was a deeply personal struggle for Katharine. She was fueled by more than a yearn for justice. She was unable to fulfill her own personal desires as long as society regarded her as a mere accessory to the male sex. Changes in the female standard were essential to Katharine’s personal happiness, and until those took place she would, in her personal choices, be an individual. And thus she became an inspiration to other women who wished to do the same.
Both the cinema world and the general society went through a drastic change in the late twenties: Cinema experienced glory with the birth of the talking pictures while the world crumbled down in depression. A crisis-stricken society turned to films to escape the terrible reality that surrounded them. There started the core of cinema’s power: The power to create, the power to influence a reality to the point of nearly changing it. As for the depiction of women, the thirties were a critical time because they housed the rise of strong, proud, independent female stars; the most notorious of which Katharine Hepburn. When Katharine became famous, she finally discovered a decent outlet to the feminist ideals she had been developing since her teenage. In a successful effort to make a difference, Katharine was careful with her roles, purposely choosing to play mostly those of the female ideal she had always envisioned. In George Cukor’s “Little Women” (1933), Hepburn played Jo March, an opinionated, unscrupulous daughter, who wished to fight the war with her father and spoke nice and loudly to the changes in womanhood men tried their best to ignore. In Dorothy Arzner’s “Christopher Strong” (1934), she played a female flier, much mirrored in Amelia Earhart, who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic two years earlier. It is noteworthy that Arzner, who – like Katharine – wore pants to the studio, was a fierce feminist and wanted to homage an innovative woman like Earhart. In “Sylvia Scarlett” (1935), she disguised as a man for over half the picture. Hepburn’s roles as feminists became a pattern that remained up to her last appearance.
In the late 1930s, a series of flops earned Ms. Hepburn the title of box office poison. In that time period, she distinguished herself by acting with unusual independence to get back on her feet. She picked the roles by herself, read the scripts and promptly refused to appear in a picture with which she disagreed. In 1939, she fell in love with a play by the name of “The Philadelphia Story” and accepted its leading role in a heartbeat. Katharine played – how shocking – an opinionated, outspoken socialite, who outsmarts every man rather easily. After a successful yearlong run, she didn’t think twice: borrowed money from her gazillionaire boyfriend Howard Hughes and bought the rights to the play. The arrangements to turn it into a movie were immediate, and, as the picture became a smashing hit, Katharine became very rich. She was the first of the female Hollywood stars to take her career into her own hands and then turn it around completely.
In 1941, Katharine met who would later become the love of her life: Spencer Bonaventure Tracy. A troubled man, with a broken marriage and a drinking problem already hanging from his conscience, he relied on Katharine’s strength to remain standing. Both literally and metaphorically, there was no question of who wore the pants: She had already said a resounding no to marriage and children, and was able to live an earth-shattering love under her own terms. In her relationship with Tracy, Hepburn proved herself a sex forward woman, attaching no commitment whatsoever to their liaison and remaining autonomous in her everyday life. With Spencer, she stands out in “Woman of the Year” (1942), where she plays overachieving superhuman Tess Harding; and in “Adam’s Rib” (1949), where she becomes Amanda Bonner, an admittedly feminist lawyer who goes to court to defend a woman from a sexist charge. Katharine remained politically active off-screen: In the late forties, she spoke out against McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee, and angered the Cold War-stricken world with her lifelong liberalism. Tracy maintained actors should not make their political views public, a statement with which Hepburn obviously took issue.
Hepburn, during the forties, paved the way to a different type of movie-making: The one that differed from the reality of its era in an effort to improve it or change it altogether. As the fifties crept up, and the world of pin-ups and housewives became dominant, it was up to cinema to keep feminism alive. By 1952, one third of nineteen-year-old women on the United States had found a husband. Only 20% of women were employed and, of those, three fourths were schoolteachers or nurses. With the cold war establishing a long era of armed peace and an unspoken threat of combat darkening the air, society experienced a revival of the American Way of Life and its alienating media. Songs spoke of the good life, movies and television portrayed the “I Love Lucy” family ideal: The working husband, the housewife and, eventually, the children. When society has one too many Doris Days, wholesome, immaculate and sexually repressed; it is up to the Vinka Kovelenkos of the world – or of Ralph Thomas’ “The Iron Petticoat” (1956) – to restore female pride. Katharine played a rather androgynous Russian captain who feels discriminated against for being a woman. On that decade, she was already known as a feminist face. With a few rare exceptions, the sight of her on the silver screen meant a strong, independent, idealized female character.
By 1957, nonetheless, 35% of women in the United States were part of the workforce (Such a change was coincidentally depicted in “Desk Set”). That number increased by the million every year. It was the start of what would be called the Sexual Revolution. As the sixties hit through, Blake Edwards’ “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” (1961) symbolized the start of a new era in movie making that lasts until today. The era where women did what they wanted, how and when they wanted it and were still considered icons by the ladies and desirable by the gentlemen. It was another Hepburn on the leading role, but the revolution she symbolized had had Katharine as a pioneer. In the late sixties, Hepburn was a tower of strength at the loss of Spencer Tracy. Her rock solid character remained intact.
Even in the 21st century, total equality of the sexes is yet to be achieved. Every day, women around the world still have firsthand experience with absurd cases of sexual inequality. However, it is impossible to deny the power to change, to inspire and to incite an all around revolution that resides in film. Katharine became a role model for daring to be different and deciding that the voice of her own mind spoke louder than the voice of social pressure. On June 29th, 2003, Katharine died silent, much like, in life, she chose never to be.  
M. C. Recife, Brazil, HaHHdskfmsodnfjkg, 22012

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

(Late) Music Monday!

Sorry for the lateness, pals and gals!
But I hope to make it up by posting one of my favorite songs: Heaven, from the movie Top Hat. There have been countless versions of this song, but this one is still my favorite:

First, as it appears on the movie, is Fred's version. A little later, Ginger's version, straight off "Screen Goddesses". I can't get over their talent!
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

So long,

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Types of Older Ladies

Hello there, pals and gals!
This post will be a (hopefully) funny, more lighthearted take on aging stars. I don't know about you guys, but every time I see one of my favorite (this is directed specially to female) stars, the ones we look up to, relate to and find the most beautiful women in history, aging, I just feel a pain inside.
But, if you look at them, they all had a different way of aging. Each so individually special that I had to make a post about them!

1. Classy and Polished: Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid Bergman is one of the most established actresses in cinema history, having won 3 Academy Awards and appearing as #4 on the AFI List of biggest silver screen stars of all time. As Ingrid aged, what was apparent was how gracefully she accepted her years. She never tried to dress, act or in any way, shape or form fancy herself as younger than she were. It seemed, as she grew older, that her elegance only improved. She lost her life rather prematurely to breast cancer, and it was a true loss for the world. Don't get me wrong, Ingie always looked her age. But, she didn't seem to worry about it all that much. And neither should she. Ingie died at 67. 

Other stars who aged like this: Grace Kelly (dead at 52)

 2. Witty and Caricaturous: Katharine Hepburn 

Katharine Hepburn figures as #1 on the AFI silver screen star list and she has won 4 Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Katharine was known for always speaking her mind and not being afraid to express any of her opinions, which she did more often than not in a witty or wisecracking way. As she aged and her attitude towards life became even more lighthearted, the clever remarks grew more frequent, her jokes grew funnier and Kate herself seemed to grow more and more pleasant to be around. Her quotes are still remembered fondly by her fans, her autobiography is a surprisingly hilarious read and some of the crazy events of her life (urinating on Mr. and Mrs. Bogart, stopping on road to help a driver with a flat tire, wearing all sorts of silly hats) just assure us of how big of a personality she always had. Katie died at 96. 

Other stars who aged like this: Bette Davis (dead at 81)

3. Showy "life of the party": Elizabeth Taylor 

Elizabeth Taylor won 2 Best Actress Academy Awards and is currently appearing at #7 at the AFI list of silver screen stars. Looking at pictures of an aging Elizabeth Taylor saddens me a great deal, because time did not treat her well. Firstly, how relatively prematurely she lost her life (I have a grandfather her age who is alive and well) and how much her face changed. She remained quite pretty for a woman her age, but nothing compared to the 18-year-old on Father of the Bride (who was as pretty as I've ever seen an actress look on the silver screen) or even the 34-year-old on Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, who was purposefully made look older. Lizzie became a rather showy older woman, wearing bright make up and bright clothes, attracting attention wherever she went. She remained an excellent actress up until her last day. Liz died at 79.

Other stars who aged like this: Brigitte Bardot (77 years old as of July 2012)

4. Smart and Experienced: Lauren Bacall 

Lauren Bacall won an honorary Oscar and currently figures as #20 at the AFI list of silver screen stars. Ms. Bacall has had one of the most fascinating runs in all Hollywood careers. Known for her association with Humphrey Bogart, she had many other interesting romances, friendships, joys and pains that are so worth reading about. As she grew older, she was as outspoken as ever, but lacking her good friend Katharine Hepburn's comedy timing (or rather, her insanity), she became a role model, a reference of wisdom and life experience. I even found her 1994 book "Now" on the self-help session at a bookstore in Paris. Her interviews and speeches are always rich in understanding and intelligence. Betty will be 88 as of September of this year.  

Other stars who aged like this: Ginger Rogers (dead at 83)

5. Beautiful as ever: Audrey Hepburn 

Audrey Hepburn won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1954 and is listed as #3 in the AFI list of silver screen stars. When a 63-year-old, cancer-stricken Audrey appeared in the Unicef camps in 1982, one couldn't help but utter: "What a beautiful doll she still is." It's not that Audrey's fabulously beautiful face remained unchanged, it did change, it did show the signs of years of chain smoking and malnourishment. However, you looked into her eyes and that feeling was still the same: So beautiful. So goddamn beautiful. Audrey died a gorgeous woman at 63  years of age.  

Other stars who aged like this: None like Audrey, but possibly Rita Hayworth (dead at 68) and Ava Gardner (also dead at 68)

6. Did she even age? Julie Andrews

Wait, when is this picture from? One might wonder when looking at Academy Award winning actress Julie Andrews. Because of AFI rules*, she did not figure on the list of silver screen stars, but one thing is for certain: Julie has not aged at all. Her face changed very little in the 45-year window depicted in the images above. Her voice, despite surgery in her vocal chords, was attested by Princess Diaries 2 as still rocking. Her acting is still titillating. Her dancing? Unchanged. Julie is still exactly the same woman. The years seem to go by unnoticed by this British beauty, who is still alive and will celebrate her 77th birthday in October.

Other stars who aged like this: None quite like Julie, but Meryl Streep is well on her way. (63 years old as of July 2012)

So, thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with my list? Can you think of any additional categories? In which category would you put your favorite star? Comments are highly appreciated! 

So long,

*The above-mentioned AFI rules are that stars must, in order to make the list, have had their silver screen debut in or before 1950 and/or have died, completing a full body of work. Since Julie had her silver screen debut in 1964 in the movie Mary Poppins and is still alive and well, she did not figure in the list. Shame. 

Friday, 6 July 2012

More than a mousy redhead: The magic of Lucille Ball

There once was a girl named Ruth Elizabeth Davis, who everyone called Bette. That's right, with an "e". Bette soon found out she had an eye-catching talent for the theater, and so her mother enrolled her on the prestigious John Murray Anderson Dramatic School, in New York. While she was there, she met a pretty girl, a few years younger than her, who wanted to be an actress just as badly as she did. However, the pretty girl was soon expelled from the acting school. "She is too shy," they'd say "she'll never make it as an actress."

The pretty girl was Lucille Désirée Ball. The pretty girl was nothing short of the biggest TV comedienne of all time.

Her red flaming hair (she was born a brunette!), big blue eyes, expressive features and sweet smile have now become classics and easily recognizable by anyone with the minimum knowledge of old school television. Lucy, as she was known, starred in various shows, the most famous of which being I Love Lucy, hilarious sitcom that, spanning for six seasons, won 4 primetime Emmys and was nominated for an additional 24 television prizes only in the USA. But poor Lucy had to struggle quite a bit to have her talent recognized by mainstream media in her day.
Lucy and Desi Arnaz
First, that incident in Bette Davis' acting school. I'd like to be a fly on the wall of that school when the teachers who said she would never make it found out what an amazing actress she had become. In Hollywood, Lucy was all but unlucky. A small part in the Ginger-Fred masterpiece Top Hat (1935) earned her the absurd amount of 50 dollars a week. She would meet Ginger again, this time in a bigger part on Stage Door (1937). The two co-starred 4-time Oscar Winner Katharine Hepburn.
Despite the extensive number of films roles, Lucy was never considered a silver screen star. It seemed like her talent went by unrecognized by Hollywood, and she kept on searching for a decent outlet for her abilities. Her famous quote: " I don't know anything about luck. I've never banked on it, and I'm afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: hard work and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't. "
It was Hollywood, however, that introduced her to Desi Arnaz. Half-cuban, this Latin lover took Lucy's heart by storm. Soon after they met, the pair eloped. Their marriage lasted for 20 years and ended in divorce. Nevertheless, many, including Lucy herself, stated that Arnaz was the love of the mousy redhead's life. Even after the divorce, the twosome remained very close up until Arnaz's death. Rumor has it that when Arnaz was very ill and in his last days, he got a visit from Lucy. After talking for a few hours, the redhead said "I'm sorry Desi, it's time for me to go home." A weak, sick Desi uttered in response: "But you are home, Lucy."
The beautiful couple starred together in the legendary TV sitcom "I Love Lucy", that premiered in 1951. The show was a smashing hit, dominating the American weekly charts for most of its run. Lucille Ball was finally the star she deserved to be. The success of I Love Lucy was thanks, in no small part, to Lucille's extraordinary natural comedic talent. Her facial expressions are priceless, the way she delivers her lines is endearingly unique and her beautiful-and-cutesy appearance shaped her into the perfect sitcom star. The success of her TV program allowed her to become the first woman ever to run a production company. Alongside Arnaz, she founded Desilu productions. With I Love Lucy, Desilu pioneered many filmmaking techniques still widely used today. Also legendary, the sitcom "Friends" adapted Desilu's habit of filming in front of a live audience and incorporating their laughs onto the episodes. During and after I Love Lucy, Lucille and Desi also starred in secondary programs, such as The Lucy and Desi Comedy Hour. However, a couple of months after the filming of the latter's last episode, the two were sadly divorced. She married Gary Morton the following year with whom she remained until her death. She mothered two children: Lucie and Desi Jr.
Lucille was also well-known for never having one bad thing to say about a fellow star. She spoke very fondly of Desi Arnaz all her life. She called Julie Andrews "one of the best British comediennes", she affirmed vehemently that Audrey Hepburn could hold her own in "my type of comedy" and she admitted to wishing she had Liza Minelli's talent. She called Vivien Vance "sensational", she said she loved Maureen O'Hara more than almost everybody she knew, and spelled Bob Hope as "C-L-A-S-S". Always smiling, always lovely, always nice, there seemed to not be a single soul who disliked Lucy.
Lucy experienced great success on Broadway as well, but nothing compared to her talent for the television. The world was saddened by her loss in 1989, from an aortic aneurysm, at 77 years old. Lucille may have lost her life rather prematurely, but one thing is for sure: Lucy, her Lucy, will never be forgotten. Beautiful, hilarious, brilliant.
The shy pretty girl made it big.

"I'm not funny. What I am is brave."
(Lucille Ball, 1911-1989)

Decades 101 - The roaring twenties!

Hello there, my pals and gals! 

This post is going to start another series on this blog! Can I get a HIP HIP HURRAY, please?
This series will be called... Decades 101! As simple as it sounds, I will talk a little bit about each decade, what makes it special, its music, its movies, its fashion, its people, its everything!
Let's start with The Roaring Twenties!

i. Forget your troubles, 'cmon get happy!
The twenties were characterized as an era of great joy. After the Great War, where men and women spent their days either directly or indirectly on the front line of battle, it was time to enjoy life at the fullest. It's no coincidence that the twenties are one of the most depicted decades in media throughout history. The economy had a growth spur never seen before and urbanization reached its climax. Dance clubs had never been that popular, with jazz and foxtrot and the birth of Swing and the Charleston. Prohibition kept alcohol from being sold legally, and, despite frequent bootlegging, there were many, many youngsters who were able to have fun without it. That is something I, as a non-drinking young adult, struggle to find in 2012.

ii. Women are persons!
Silent screen star Louise Brooks
The role of women in society changed drastically in the twenties.
We were introduced in society and the workplace when men went off to war and everything in non-occupied zones were left in the women's hands. After the war was over, we weren't about to give up our rights and freedoms just because the men were back. On the contrary, we wanted to expand them. Women's suffrage was the extensive campaign to provide for members of the female sex the right to vote. Sounds awfully basic for today's mentality, but back then, it was a groundbreaking idea. Some notable suffragettes should be an inspiration for us all: We have Nellie McClung and the Famous Five, in Canada, an amazing group that included the first female judge of North America and the first woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.We also have Katharine Houghton-Hepburn, founder with Margaret Sanger of the Planned Parenthood organization, that still acts today toward birth control and women's sexual freedom and sole founder of the Katharine Houghton-Hepburn Fund for Reproductive Rights. Finally, we have Emmeline Pankhurst, by far the biggest suffrage leader in history.
The twenties flapper is a well-known figure: The shorter, more revealing dresses (in comparison to wartime frocks and the Victorian Era), shorter hair, drinking, smoking and dating like there's no tomorrow. Without a care in the world for men's approval.
(In a fairly related note, it is possible to see that women's rights and liberation actually took a turn for the worse in the 40s and 50s. It wasn't until the mid-sixties that we started to get our rights back.)

Silent star Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923)
iii. In silence
Movies were an absolute craze for the twenties folks! The so-called Silent Era (from the birth of cinema in 1894 to 1929) consisted of highly visual movies, with plenty of on-screen pantomime, excellent soundtracks and some of the best thespians that ever graced this earth. Thanks to the absence of sound, movies in this pompous era were often accompanied by live piano music. Among the main stars, there was Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino (who never had the chance to be in a spoken picture), the Gish sisters, Clara Bow and Louise Brooks. In 1927, the transition to talkies began, with the innovative first All talkin! All singing! All dancing! picture "The Jazz Singer". Among the stars that survived that transition there is Buster Keaton, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, Norma Shearer, Lilian Gish and Gloria Swanson.
Movies worth watching to get a feel of that era are: Metropolis (1927), Nosferatu (1922), It (1927), The Son of the Sheik (1926), Pandora's Box (1929) and Wings (1927), the first Academy Award Winner for Best Picture.
Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's "Singing in the Rain" (1952), Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) and Michel Hazanavicius "The Artist" (2010) are glorious, albeit very different one from another, homages to the silent era.

iv. Trying something new
One of my role models, Amelia Earhart, and the Lockheed
Electra 10E
The culture of the twenties was among the richest in the twentieth century. Innovations were all-around. Mass production was an innovation in industrialism: Products finally accessible to the masses. Flying around the world! Women flying around the world! The birth of aviation as we know it started in the mid-twenties. Paris sizzled with the creativity of the likes of Picasso, Modigliani, Hemingway, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and so many others. Edward Munch's expressionism and Salvador Dalí's surrealism took the canvases and are still widely appreciated today as some of the most important art movements in history. Music was in charge of jazz and the charleston.

 To finalize, let's all delight ourselves with this beautiful charleston demonstration by the ever so talented Ginger Rogers:

Have a swell day, everyone!

So long,