Sunday, November 1, 2015

You Like Classic Hollywood? SURE you do!

If you have followed this blog for the years it has been written or read any of my books on classic movies and the golden age of Hollywood, you know that I try to cover all aspects of that glorious age.  I have just released my newest issue of the e-magazine named after this blog:  Classic Movies Digest.  The latest, Volume 1, Issue 4, features some great films and an insightful piece on the scandal caused by Mary Astor's diary, which was a focus in her nasty divorce in the mid-1930s, plus more.

If you're a fan of classic movie lore click on the link below and check out the latest and if you enjoy it, I hope you will leave a positive review!
And say, thanks very much.
Classic Movies Digest, Volume 1, Issue 4

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Fine Character Reference

 Character actors from the classic movie age are some of the most beloved stars of the era. In my newest book, The Name Below The Title, Volume 2: 20 MORE Classic Movie Character Actors From Hollywood's Golden Age, I celebrate the lives and contributions of even more fabulous personalities, some of my personal favorites, some whom are loved by a vast majority. Below I've posted an excerpt from the chapter on superb player, Elsa Lanchester. Enjoy and if you'd like to check out the rest of the book and the other 19 wonderful character actors, check out the book on Amazon.

In 1924 Lanchester and her partner, Harold Scott, opened a nightclub on Charlotte Street called the Cave of Harmony, a haven for London Bohemia.  Although the main focus was midnight performances of one-act plays and cabaret songs, Lanchester also included revivals of aged Victorian ballads and bawdy Cockney songs, including odd ditties such as “Rat Catcher’s Daughter.”  The Cave of Harmony became a popular haunt for toney artists and intellectuals, including writers H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Evelyn Waugh, and future film director James Whale, who would play an important part in Elsa’s life during the next decade.  Her work at the Cave of Harmony was a labor of love, reaping little in financial gain and she participated in stage work elsewhere while continuing her tenure at her own establishment.

 In 1927, the colorful actress made her professional film debut in a supporting role in One of the Best, a silent costume drama produced by prestigious Gainsborough Pictures (Her first actual film appearance was in an amateur motion picture by her friend and author Evelyn Waugh called The Scarlet Woman: An Ecclesiastical Melodrama in 1925). Yet, even more memorable for her personally, if not professionally, was her participation, that same year, in a play by Arnold Bennett called Mr. Prohack, in which she was cast opposite a young character actor named Charles Laughton. The two actors reportedly were paid the same salaries, though Laughton played the title role and Elsa was cast in the smaller part of his secretary. They acted together in a set of short films the following year and in February 1929 were married. They continued to act together on occasion including in Payment Deferred on the London stage in May 1931, then traveling to the United States to debut the show on Broadway in September, where it ran for 70 performances in the autumn of ‘31. Laughton was cast in the movie version, released in 1932, though Lanchester was not.

 It was during this period that Laughton confessed to his wife of his homosexual tendencies. In her 1983 autobiography, Elsa Lanchester, Herself, she recounted the night he disclosed his secret. The actor arrived home late one evening in 1931 with Jeffrey Dell, who was adapting Payment Deferred for the stage, a policeman and a boy who apparently wanted money from Laughton, all in tow. According to Lanchester:

   “I was in bed when Charles came upstairs. ‘Something awful has happened,’ he said to me. ‘I have something to confess.’ He said that he had picked up the boy, and it wasn’t the first time he had done it; that he was homosexual partly, and he cried. I said, ‘It’s perfectly all right, it doesn’t matter. I understand it. Don’t worry about it.’ That’s why he cried. When I told him it didn’t matter. […]

 Later on, I would ask Charles what really happened, and once he told me that he had had a fellow on our sofa. The only thing I said was, “Fine, okay, but get rid of the sofa.” We did. We sold it.”

 When Laughton appeared in court concerning the incident, the judge called the money given to the boy “misguided generosity,” and a tiny paragraph at the bottom of a local newspaper read: “Actor warned about misguided generosity.” Only the boy’s name was listed.

 Lanchester is just one of the great character stars featured in the fun and informative book. If you love classic Hollywood, as I do, I hope you will give it a read. Check it out at the link below!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Private Worlds (1935): Have You Seen It?

Mental illness wasn’t exactly the kind of subject matter that had audiences flocking to darkened theaters during Hollywood’s golden age.  It was on rare occasions that a studio would delve into the complicated world of psychosis but when it did, it was usually interesting and respected if not extremely popular.  The Snake Pit, produced by 20th Century-Fox in 1948, was one of the best-known and finest examples of the sensitive subject matter on celluloid.  Thirteen years earlier, however, Paramount had made Private Worlds, which starred Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea and examined the administrative aspect of a mental hospital with romantic elements thrown in to add spice.

Drs. Jane Everest and Alex MacGregor (Colbert and McCrea) are psychiatrists; colleagues who work very closely together at the Brentwood clinic, a facility for those with mental illness.  Although they are close, there is no hanky-panky between the two professionals, just mutual respect and camaraderie.  Alex is married to Sally (Joan Bennett), an innocent, young woman who loves her husband deeply and is emotionally dependent on him.  Jane has no romantic entanglements, instead carrying a burning torch for her love, lost years ago during World War I.  When a new superintendent arrives at Brentwood, he finds bitterness and animosity from MacGregor, who had hoped to gain the position himself.  The new head honcho, Dr. Charles Monet (Charles Boyer), is of the belief that women should not hold such lofty positions in the medical field, as Dr. Jane has for some time, and reassigns her to lesser responsibilities at the hospital.

The problems really begin when Monet’s flighty and flirtatious sister, who has a shady past, sets her sights on the handsome MacGregor.  While the young doctor begins to see this piece of work “socially,” his emotionally fragile wife slowly begins to sink into a mental decline.  Jane also finds drama when she begins to be drawn to Monet and vice versa.

Joan Bennett and Claudette Colbert

Claudette Colbert was riding a career high in the mid-Thirties.  While filming Private Worlds, Colbert won an Academy Award for the famed screwball comedy It Happened One Night, released the previous year.  1934 also saw her star turns in the original version of Imitation of Life and the exotic lead in Cecil B. De Mille’s Cleopatra.  Fresh off this win she was nominated for her work in Private Worlds.  As Dr. Monet, Charles Boyer gives an interesting performance, though not definitive.  New to Hollywood, Boyer had a heavy, very distinctive French accent, which would be an extreme liability for most actors but for Boyer it became his trademark (the same could be said of fellow Frenchman Maurice Chevalier) and would be imitated by celebrity impersonators often.

Private Worlds was based on a novel by authoress Phyllis Bottom, who had a number of her books translated to the screen, the most famous being The Mortal Storm at MGM in 1940.  According to Joan Bennett, her future husband Walter Wanger, who produced the movie, was offered the film rights to the Phyllis Bottom book, after he had read it, while in England.  Although initially refusing, the producer changed his mind when he realized the book was a bestseller.  When Paramount obtained the rights to Bottom’s story, Gregory La Cava was chosen to direct what was basically uncharted film territory.  La Cava got his start in the early days of motion pictures in charge of an animation unit for newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst and creating animated shorts with famed cartoonist Walter Lantz.  When he made Private Worlds, his best-known films, My Man Godfrey and Stage Door, had yet to be made.

In her supporting role, Joan Bennett was able to stretch her acting wings more than she ever had before, bringing in one of her most dramatic parts to that date.  In her memoir, The Bennett Playbill, the actress called her part as Sally “the first really challenging and the most dramatic role I’d played up to that time.”  She named Private Worlds as one of six films out of her entire career of seventy movies that she felt was “acceptable.”

As part of the MCA/Universal library, which houses the Paramount collection of movies from this era, Private Worlds is a rarity for modern classic movie lovers.  It is, however, worth the view if ever you get the chance to catch it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

He Said, She Said....

Classic Hollywood stars were colorful to say the least, and through the years, they spoke colorful and fun quips that can be fun to look back on today.  Here are a few from some of Tinseltown's biggest and brightest stars.

The public has always expected me to be a playboy,
and a decent chap never lets his public down.
  ~ Errol Flynn

Wrinkles are hereditary. Parents get them from their children.
  ~ Doris Day

I just put my feet in the air and move them around.
  ~ Fred Astaire

If I had to live my life again,
I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.
  ~ Tallulah Bankhead

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Classic Movies Digest is Now an E-Magazine!

Have you checked out the new Classic Movies Digest electronic magazine on Amazon?
Two issues have been published since early December and the reception has been fantastic!
In depth features of stars and films from Hollywood's grand golden age.
At only 99¢, it is a super value and also gives those who are interested in this fabulous time in movie history a peek into my selection of e-books available on Amazon.

The Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine Sister Rivalry and the Ronald Reagan / Jane Wyman Divorce are just two features which delves into what was happening with these great stars of the Silver Screen.  Check them out, along with my other classic movie tomes at the links below and thanks for all the great support and encouragement.

Classic Movies Digest, Volume 1, Issue 1

Classic Movies Digest, Volume 1, Issue 2


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