Friday, March 17, 2017

Spring Blogathons -- Coming Soon!

You know these little heads-up posts are really my way of saying, "Hey, you wanna join these too?"  Here are three blogathons I'll be involved in over the next couple months:


The Wonderful World of Cinema is hosting their second William Holden celebration April 15-17 -- yes, I know that's Easter weekend, but Holden's birthday is April 17, so that's why they went with those dates.  I'll be contributing a review of the frolicsome western Texas (1941), which co-starred very young William Holden and Glenn Ford.


May 5-7, Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and Love Letters to Old Hollywood are co-hosting a blogathon about homes featured in classic movies and TV shows.  I'm going to write about the tiny apartment inhabited by Gene Kelly's character in An American in Paris.


Finally, May 26-29 will be the Favorite Director Blogathon co-hosted by The Midnite Drive-In and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies.  For this one, I'll be reviewing The Searchers (1956), which was directed by John Ford and stars John Wayne, whose birthday is May 26.  I might also be contributing a book review of the book The Searchers:  The Making of an American Legend by Glenn Frankel if I can get it read in time.

If you'd like to join any of these, click on any of the links in this post, or the buttons here or in my sidebar -- they'll all lead you to the sign-up posts.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Week Tag


It's Beauty and the Beast Week over at Meredith's blog, On Stories and Words!  I reviewed The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux for this yesterday on my book blog, and today, I'm going to fill out the tag Meredith kindly provided.

1.When did you first experience Beauty and the Beast? 

Sometime in the mid-'90s, a friend loaned us the Disney animated movie, but the part where Belle's dad gets chased by wolves in the forest scared my little brother so much, we had to turn it off.  I'm sure I read some version or other of it as a kid, but I didn't see the whole Disney version until I was in college.  I liked it okay, but didn't love it.

2. In what forms (book, movie, retelling) have you experienced Beauty and the Beast? 

I've seen the Disney animated movie a few times, and I've read the Five Enchanted Roses collection of five retellings from Rooglewood Press.  I've also seen the movie Rigoletto (1993), which I love and wish I could find on DVD for a decent price.  And I've read The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux and seen the 2004 movie of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on it, as well as the 1925 silent film version.  I've also read the children's version of the story by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont.  But by far, my favorite retelling is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë!


3. Who is your favorite character in Beauty and the Beast?

Usually the beast.  I have a lot of sympathy for him.  Beauty is cool too, but she doesn't quite grab my emotions the way he does.  Though in some retellings, that's not true.

4. What is your favorite song from the cartoon Beauty and the Beast?

The title song.  It makes me cry!

5. If you were turned into a piece of furniture what you want it to be?

A bookshelf :-)

6. What would your dream cast for Beauty and the Beast be?

Hmmm.  I rather think Hugh Jackman would be an amazing beast.  And Alicia Vikander is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, so I'll cast her as Belle.  This would be a pretty serious movie, I think, delving deeply into issues of appearances versus reality, inner and outer beauty, and what promises really mean.  Self-sacrifice and loyalty would be major themes as well.



7. If your school were performing BatB, which character would you want to play?

Mrs. Potts, I think.  I'm too old to be Belle.

8. Like Belle, do you enjoy reading books multiple times?

Absolutely!  I am a devoted re-reader.

9. If you were to write a retelling, what would you change?

Interesting question, because I've been pondering writing a western version, but I can't quite find the right angle yet.  I think I would make the beauty a little older so that when she decides to stay with the beast, she's making a mature decision about her future, not being impetuous.  Not that I'm saying Belle is impetuous, necessarily, but... I'd like to write her as an older heroine, someone in her thirties at least.  I think that would be cool.

10. Are roses your favorite flower?

Nope, daffodils are.


Don't forget to visit On Stories and Words this week to join in all the Beauty and the Beast fun!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

"Logan" (2017) -- Initial Thoughts


When I got out of the theater this evening, I texted my best friend.  It's a thing I do when I see a movie, generally -- I'll text her before and after.  Tonight, I leaned against the wall outside screen ten and wrote, "I am the oddest mix of emotionally devastated and content."  I can't think of any other way to succinctly explain how I feel about this movie.  I had to sit in my car and finish crying before I could drive home... but I'm not sad.

In fact, I'm proud.

I'm proud of my Wolverine, James, Logan -- whatever name you want to call this broken, resilient, protective loner.  He did not go gentle into that good night.  He burned and raved.  He raged in a way only the Wolverine can rage.

And he triumphed.

I cannot imagine any way that I could be more proud of my Wolverine.


*!*!*!*!*!*  This section involves MAJOR SPOILERS.  Skip to below the next picture if you are spoiler-shy.  *!*!*!*!*!* 

I had the weirdest conversation with my mom over Christmas.  We were watching The Fellowship of the Ring, and when we got to that big fight between Gandalf and Saruman, she said something to the effect of, "It's just so pitiful when old men try to fight.  Don't they know they can't do that anymore?"  (That's obviously not true of Gandalf and Saruman, because they're kind of ageless Maiar and everything, but anyway...)  I said, "No!  I completely disagree.  I think when an old man stands up and says he's going to fight with whatever is left in him -- that's not pitiful.  That's glorious.  I admire an old man who will not let the fact that he is old be an excuse to stand by and do nothing."  And that is very much how I feel about both Wolverine and Professor X in this.  They're old.  They're dying.  And they're not going to let that stop them from standing up for what is right.

You know I have a thing for "found family" stories.  It's part of what has drawn me to the X-Men since I was a teen, since before the movies ever existed -- they have always been about finding and building a family if you don't have one.  The fact that this wasn't only about a "found family," but also about Wolverine finding out he has a family was just... it was wonderful.  It was all the things I wanted, emotionally.  And then they added Shane (1953) to the mix, and I thought rainbows were going to shoot out of my fingers and toes, I was so happy.  Did they write this movie just for me?  Did they access my brain while I was asleep and amalgamate this from all the things I love?  There was a scene where I had Alan Ladd and Hugh Jackman on the screen at the same time -- I started to cry there just because I couldn't quite believe that was really happening.  My Alan.  My Wolvie.  Together.

And even if I hadn't already guessed how this movie was going to end, from the moment they added Shane into the mix, it was clear.  Wolverine had become Shane -- here to protect an innocent family by standing between them and evil, by sacrificing himself for them.  And by leaving them in the process.  Only, in Logan, the family is his own.

And that's what emotionally wrecked me -- not the death of Wolverine.  He died well.  He was ready to die, and he died at peace.  I could not ask for more.  What made me cry and cry in the theater, all through the end credits, and then cry more in my car, was that they used Shane's final speech to Joey as a eulogy for Wolverine.  I'm tearing up again now just remembering it.  I could not ask for a more fitting way to say goodbye to a favorite actor's portrayal of a favorite character than by reciting the words made famous by another favorite actor portraying another favorite character.  It's as perfect as possible, in a very personal way for me.


I have loved Wolverine for twenty years now -- loved him for his feral arrogance, for his fierce loyalty, for his willingness to do whatever nasty things need doing so that others don't have to do them.  I don't know if I've ever talked about this on my blog before, though I know I've discussed it in comments and emails with some of you, but I actually refused to go see the first X-Men (2000) in the theater because everything I'd seen of Hugh Jackman did not fit the Wolvie I knew.  Wolverine in the comics is supposed to be "nasty, brutish, and short."  Not handsome.  Not tall.  Not Hugh Jackman.  I had even been mad at first that Dougray Scott was going to play him, because he was too handsome, but I'd gotten used to that idea -- I already liked Scott from Ever After (1998).  Who was this Hugh Jackman person to take over a role he was so ill-suited for?  I refused to see such a travesty.

But then, after the movie had come to VHS, they showed X-Men on a college field trip somewhere, on the bus.  My college best friend and roommate convinced me not to bury my nose in a book and ignore it, but just to give it a try.  And by the end of that first scene where Wolvie is cage fighting and as growled-up as any Wolvie fan could desire, my mind began to change.  By the end of my first viewing, I had converted.  I know they'll probably cast someone else as Wolverine again some day.  I will try not to make the same mistake and judge them before I see how they portray him.  But... Hugh Jackman's Wolverine will always be MY Wolverine.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Um... so... I made this...


This is Alan Ladd's super-cute reaction to someone's icy behavior toward him in Her First Romance.  DKoren suggested it should be a .gif.  I figured out how to make it.  Now I can't stop watching it.  Hellllllllllppppp!!!!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

"Her First Romance" (1940)

This is a severely cute movie.  If you can't deal with extreme adorableness, then it is not for you.  But not icky, cloying, overblown adorableness -- just sweet and light and happy adorableness.  There IS a difference, after all!

Right from the opening credits, we can tell this will be cute, right?  Look at the girl reading a book and going goggle-eyed over it.  And she seems to have hearts and exclamation points bursting forth everywhere -- must be quite a book.  We'll get to that more a little later.


And speaking of books, I see this is based on one, so I just checked Amazon and found the Kindle version of Her Father's Daughter by Gene Stratton Porter for free.  Guess what's loaded onto my phone now?

This is also a musical.  It has so much music, the credits devote an entire title card to listing off all the songs it contains.  There's a bunch of some opera, as you can see.  We'll get to that too.


Her First Romance involves a lot of fishing.  And opera.  And books.  Yes, it's quite a combo.  It's also a Cinderella retelling, mixed with dollops of Ugly Duckling for good measure.  It's directed by Edward Dmytryk, who went on to direct such classics as Murder My Sweet (1944), Back to Bataan (1945), The Caine Mutiny (1954), and The Young Lions (1958).  But mostly I included the title card below because of the cute fishing cartoon.


And now you see the reason I dug this movie up on Amazon Video.  It all makes sense now, huh?


Amazon Video is the only place I can find this movie -- it was released to VHS many moons ago, but isn't on DVD.  The print quality isn't the best, so please forgive the glitches in my screencaps.  I got the clearest ones I could.

Anyway!  The story begins with a co-ed named Linda (Edith Fellows) who miraculously walks down a flight of stairs with her nose stuck in a book.  She's so absorbed in what she's reading, she doesn't even notice two guys stop, read over her shoulder, and declare her book too hard for them.


Linda's friend Susie (Marlo Dwyer) stops to talk to her, and they have a conversation about how oblivious Linda is to her appearance.  Susie encourages her to dress more fashionably, do her hair differently, and stop wearing the glasses that Linda's sister insists she needs.


Four guys watch from afar.  The one second from left who looks like he's about to cry is a new pledge to a fraternity, and for his initiation, he has to ask Linda to the big dance coming up.  The more he delays, the more he gets paddled by the frat boys.  But he doesn't want to ask her because she's the ugliest and least popular girl at college.  Of course, he eventually does.


Linda doesn't know it's an initiation dare, and she is over the moon with the idea that she'll get to go to her first real dance.  She runs home and tells her family cook, Katy (Marian Kerby) the exciting news.  Katy is extremely happy for her.


Someone else in the house is not happy, however.  Linda's cousin (I think?) Marian (Judith Linden) is broken-hearted because the man she loves has switched his affections to someone else.


And that someone else is Linda's half-sister and guardian, Eileen (Julie Bishop, billed as Jacqueline Wells).  Eileen is ambitious and selfish.  She's also the two ugly stepsisters and the evil stepmother rolled into one nasty, man-eating package.


Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Katy has bribed the grocery delivery boy to teach Linda to dance.  Bribed with what?  Why, with the promise of a six-layered chocolate cake.  For that, I'd teach her to dance myself.


Enter the man Eileen stole from Marian -- John (Alan Ladd).  And I only had to wait ten minutes for him to show up!  Eileen tells him how difficult it is for her with Marian living with them and being all mopey over losing John.


John consoles her with a kiss.  Well, you know, that'd console me too.


Katy disapproves.


Linda asks Eileen for a new dress and permission to go to the dance.  It turns out Linda is only seventeen, and Eileen dictates everything in her life, from forcing her to wear glasses to refusing to let her buy new clothes.  Eileen, you are one cold fish.  It's highly unfair that you got to kiss Alan Ladd.


Linda runs off in tears.  Katy takes things in hand and says there is no reason she shouldn't go to the dance -- if the only thing holding her back is the lack of an appropriate dress, Katy will buy her one with the money she's been saving up all these years that she's worked for the family.  Katy, it turns out, is a fairy godmother who can bake six-layer chocolate cakes.  My kind of woman!


Linda cheers up immediately.


John and Eileen sit down for a little tea and canoodling.


Linda, to revenge herself over Eileen refusing to buy her a dress, goes upstairs and starts singing scales and other vocal exercises right over their heads.  John thinks she sounds pretty good.  Eileen, clearly, was looking forward to an afternoon tea-and-snog session and is highly annoyed.


John leaves, and Eileen stomps upstairs to yell at Linda and tell her she will never be a good singer, she needs to just get her education and find some appropriate job, etc.  Linda and Marian cry on each others' shoulders over Eileen's mean ways.


Linda decides to go out somewhere on the grounds of her family's extensive estate and do some sketching while listening to opera music on her cute little portable record player.  (EDIT:  DKoren, who is very knowledgeable about opera, has informed me that actually, there's only one bit of opera here, and the rest is just other songs.  I'm correcting my review in the appropriate places.)


A random dude (Wilbur Evans) and his chauffeur who are trespassing on her property in order to fish hear her music, and her singing along with it.  The random dude is enchanted, and begins to sing along in a very nice voice of his own.


(If you're wondering about the chauffeur's hat, it's his voodoo hat meant to help the random guy catch fish.  The less said about his terrifyingly stereotypical behavior, the better.)

Linda investigates to see who is singing a duet with her and falls in the water.  Random Dude fishes her out, and after she scolds him for trespassing on her family's property (and laments the loss of her glasses in the water), he invites her to share his picnic lunch.  She dubs him Crusoe because he said his chauffeur is his Man Friday, and they have a charming time dining on the fish he caught and getting very chummy.


Linda thinks Crusoe would be a swell new love interest for cousin Marian.  But Marian figures out who he really is.  Helps to read newspapers!


Crusoe is actually a famous singer named Philip Niles who's vacationing here in Lilac Valley.  (By the way, I totally want to live somewhere called Lilac Valley someday.)  Linda will continue to call him Crusoe through the rest of the movie, though.


Well, Katy really did buy Linda a party dress.  I'm not real sure about those sequined bows down the front, but overall it's very pretty.


But just when Linda has gotten all beautiful for the dance, she gets a phone call from good old Susie.  Susie has learned that Linda's date only asked her because it was a fraternity initiation gag, and she can't bear the idea of her friend going to the party under false pretenses.  I *think* she does this to be kind.


But Linda is devastated.  She wishes she had never found out.  Now there's no way she can go to the party. She's convinced everyone will laugh at her.


In fact, when her "date" comes to pick her up, she yells at him and turns the garden hose on him and his friends!  Wow, Linda's got some moxy under all those mild manners!


The boys leave, and Linda flees into the garden to have a good cry.  When who should drive up in an expensive car, looking devestatingly handsome, but Crusoe!


Crusoe takes Linda to the dance, which turns out to be a party thrown in his honor.


Nobody is quite sure they can believe this pretty girl arriving with the famous singer is actually dowdy little Linda.


John, for all he's got fickle, easy-to-sway affections, is a very sweet guy.  He thinks it's great that Linda is all happy.  Eileen is, naturally, irate.  She isn't mad Linda showed up at the party so much as that Linda showed up with an important guy.  And made John smile.


Linda and Crusoe dance.


All the college guys decide that Linda is now The Girl to dance with.  One after another, they cut in on her.  At first she thinks this is amazing and fun.


But eventually she gets tired of being passed from one guy to another, having to listen to their wisecracks.


Crusoe rescues her, and they dance happily together.  He promises not to let any other fraternity boys dance with her, but decides it's okay if her almost-brother-in-law cuts in.


Yeah, so Linda gets to dance with Alan Ladd.  Some girls have all the luck.


Then we stop the party so Crusoe can sing.


He sings for a long time.  Then he invites Linda come sing a song from Don Giovanni with him.  Eileen thinks this is horrible.  John thinks this is great.  John kinda thinks most things are great.  There's not a lot to him, I must admit, but he sure smiles nicely.  And wears a tux well.


Linda has never sung in public before.  She's not at all happy about joining Crusoe up on that podium.


But what do you know?  They sound just as great singing together here as they did when they were just singing along with her record by the old fishing hole!  Linda gains confidence visibly, and the crowd goes wild!


John thinks this is great!  Eileen has a sudden idea that she could trade up for a richer, more famous boyfriend by using Linda to get into Crusoe's affections.


Crusoe tells Linda she could have a real singing career.  He talks only to Linda and basically ignores Eileen.  Eileen is not used to being ignored, but she just seethes and pouts in the background instead of doing anything rash to get his attention.  She can wait and scheme, she's good at that.


Time for picnic number two!  Linda really wants Crusoe and cousin Marian to get together, so she invites them both on a picnic.  Katy bakes them a pie.  Again, that's my kind of fairy godmother -- pies and cakes and dresses, oh my!


John happens to be playing golf with some buddies nearby.  He hits a golf ball right in the pie.  No one is happy about this.  Except John, who thinks pie is still great, even if it's had a golf ball in it.  Linda takes him off for a walk so Crusoe and Marian can be Alone Together.  She's quite sure if she can just make them be Alone Together often enough, Marian will quit moping over John and fall for Crusoe instead.  Linda is incredibly oblivious.  But her dress is cute.


After dinner that evening, Linda contrives things so Crusoe and Marian can be Alone Together again while Marian accompanies him at the piano.  Crusoe sings a while.  For only being 77 minutes long, this movie takes a lot of singing breaks.


Eileen then wangles her way into being Alone Together with Crusoe so they can "discuss Linda's future."  Crusoe is totally onto Eileen's machinations and thinks she's hilarious, but he keeps his amusement to himself.  Except when it turns out that Linda has been lying on a nearby couch eavesdropping the whole time -- that cracks him up.


Marian takes Linda aside and gently but firmly explains that her heart will always belong to John-who-thinks-everything-is-great, and suggests Linda try to interest Crusoe in herself if she doesn't want him falling into Eileen's clutches.  Linda is skeptical of this plan having any kind of success.  Totally oblivious, like I said.


Since she has never tried to romance a man before, being only seventeen and all, Linda sneaks into Eileen's bedroom and borrows a book.


It's a spectacularly helpful book.  Or so she assumes.


Being a good student, Linda follows this book to the letter.  She invites Crusoe to go fishing up at her family's cabin in the mountains.  For only being 77 minutes long, this movie also manages to cram a lot of fishing in.


While Linda is following the book's advice and "displaying her charms" by swimming around in one of the least provocative bathing suits I've seen (but didn't manage to screencap, sorry), Crusoe accidentally finds her book.


He's both amused and annoyed.  But he fries up the fish for a tasty picnic lunch (man, these people eat outside a lot!).  Linda repays him by sabotaging his car so they'll be stuck up there together.


But when she tries cozying up to him on the sofa, he's had enough.  Crusoe, you see, is a really good guy.  He might be growing increasingly fond of our little Linda, but he is NOT going to take advantage of the fact that they are Alone Together up at her family cabin.  She's seventeen.  He's thirty-five.  (Well, at the time of filming, Edith Fellows really was seventeen like her character, so I'm going to assume that since Wilbur Evans was thirty-five, his character is as well.)


She tries to kiss him.  He freaks out and scolds her.


Then he tells her he knows about the book.  She gets mad at him for snooping.  He finds this adorable.


Eileen shows up at the cabin and tells Crusoe she wants to go with him to San Francisco on his trip to sing there so they can "discuss Linda's future."  Linda fixes Crusoe's car and drives off in a huff.  She runs straight home, finds John, and informs him, "She's going to San Francisco with Crusoe and you have to stop her!"


John promptly punches Crusoe in the face when Crusoe and Eileen arrive.  Finally, something John does NOT think is great!


John then declares his true love for Marian.  Which any Alan Ladd fan could see coming a mile away, because his characters always lose their hearts to women named Marian.  (See Whispering Smith and Shane for more details.)  He thought it was Marian who was going away with Crusoe, which made him realize he loves her, and now he begs her to stay and marry him.


Crusoe thinks this is great.  He and John shake hands, no hard feelings over the face-punching.


Next thing you know, there's a preacher in the parlor, and John and Marian are getting hitched.


John thinks this is great.


Katy cries with happiness.  We assume.  Could be she's just been chopping onions for the wedding feast.


Crusoe celebrates the wedding by stopping the story to sing another long song.  Wilbur Evans really did all the singing for the movie, it's not dubbed in, and he does have a nice voice, but really?  Another song?  Dude, there's only like five minutes left to tie up the rest of the plot!  But okay, go ahead, indulge your love of Italian vowels.  I'll be over here waiting for the next shot of Alan Ladd.


After the wedding, and the song, Crusoe asks Eileen if he can speak to her alone a moment.  Linda and Katy run off to the kitchen to cry because they're convinced Eileen has gotten her hooks into Crusoe and he's proposing to her, carried away by the emotions of John and Marian's wedding and all those Italian vowels.


Eileen thinks so too.  She is NOT pleased when Crusoe instead asks if he could marry Linda once she turns eighteen.


Linda has run off to the garden to cry.


Crusoe comes out and explains that nope, he wants to marry her, once she's eighteen and doesn't have to have Eileen's permission.  (And because, presumably, the audience would find it really icky if a 35-year-old guy married a 17-year-old girl.  Thirty-six and eighteen is WAY better, amiright?)


She's happy.  He's happy.  They don't go into a clinch.  No smooching!  Instead, he very honorably and sweetly puts an arm around her shoulder and gives her a good hug.  Gentlemanly to the last, at least!


And there you have it!  A sweet, adorable Cinderella story, crammed with fishing and books and picnics and a LOT of singing.


And also those cute title cards.  Can't forget those.