Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Film Finds

As we ring in the new year, let's count down Classic Reel Girl's top 5 Film Finds of 2015.

5) Lured (1947) - Why you should see it: Lucille Ball. 

Her presence elevates every film in which she appears (at least in all those that I have viewed thus far). Be forewarned that the plot begins to drag, but it is worth the watch to see Ball in a dramatic, film noir-ish role. Several cherries on top: Boris Karloff makes an appearance, Ball dons chic costumes, and if you are interested in literary criticism, the plot lends itself to a gay reading.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dancing Legs Quiz ~ December Edition

Take a look at the following partial pictures. Each dance routine debuted in a movie released in December. Can you guess these famous dancing legs? Give yourself a bonus point if you can name the movie.



Friday, December 25, 2015

December Viewing ~ Home for the Holidays

I'll be home for Christmas. 
You can count on me.
I'll be home for Christmas.
If only in my dreams.
As I looked over the movies I viewed this month, I realized that December was all about going home. These are movies that will be forever intertwined with memories of my mother who introduced them to me. Though we may be miles apart, a piece of me goes home every time I view them.

The Long, Hot Summer (1958)

Whenever The Long, Hot Summer is on, I am compelled to stop and watch it--not because I am particularly enamored by the plot or characters. No, I view it because Long, Hot Summer reminds me of my mother. It is one of her favorite films and as such we viewed it many times together. I maintain that Ben Quick (Paul Newman) is a dirty, rotten scoundrel and that Clara (Joanne Woodward) deserves much better. I get that he had a rough childhood and is paying for his father's sins. However, he did con the local men into buying wild horses without blinking an eye. I will concede though that he is an awfully cute scoundrel and worthy of our female gaze. Another reason to stop and watch it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

November Viewing ~ Shearer, Spies, and MacLaine

The grades have been posted, the gifts purchased and wrapped, the cookies baked and set out. Now it's time for some Classic Reel Girl (and a nap!).

Before looking forward, I want to look back on the movies watched and discovered throughout the months of November and December. The last few days of 2015 will also include my top 2015 Film Finds, how I did with my 10 for 2015 list, and my 2016 Films to Watch list (not sure if I should make it ten again... ;-) ). Looks like I will be having a mini-blogging marathon to make up for lost time! Watch for updated links.


TCM's November was devoted to the legendary Norma Shearer. Prior commitments didn't allow me to catch nearly as much Norma as I wanted to this time around, but I made room for three of her films.

*The Divorcee (1930) - Ever since I took an interest in pre-code movies, this film and Baby Face (1933) have popped up in conversations as quintessential examples of the genre. While there is no doubting its pre-codeness, The Divorcee is lacking the characteristic I prefer most in pre-code movies: the all-out-strong woman. At first, the film appears it will deliver. When Jerry's (Norma Shearer) husband cheats on her, she "balanced [the] accounts" by doing the same. 

 Best shot of the film: Don't mess with Norma!
***Spoilers ahead***

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dancing Legs Quiz ~ November Edition

Hurray for vacation! It has been a pleasure to have time to work on my blog again. With that being said, no month would be complete without the Dancing Legs Quiz.

Take a look at the following partial pictures. Each dance routine debuted in a movie released in November. Can you guess these famous dancing legs? Give yourself bonus points if you can name the movie.



Saturday, November 28, 2015

Lured (1947) ~ Spoiler Version

It was killing me to dance around spoilers in my last post, but the film is a whodunit and respect is due to those who like figuring out the murderer on their own.

If you have viewed the movie, don't give a snit about spoilers, or just like wild film theories, please read on. 

By the way, TCM will be showing Lured again on Thursday, December 3rd at 8 pm EST as part of its George Sanders birthday tribute. You could always view it and then come back. ;-)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lured (1947) ~ Film Noir's Taxi Dancer

Normally associated with light, fluffy comedies (Annabel series, MGM musicals, and—of course—I Love Lucy), Lucille Ball seems an unlikely candidate to traverse the dark streets of the underworld. This is exactly where she found herself, though, when her agent arranged a loan out to Twentieth Century Fox for The Dark Corner in 1946 and United Artists for Lured in 1947. In her autobiography, Love, Lucy, Ball explained that she was less than thrilled with her agent’s arrangement:

All my affairs were being handled by this agent*, and I wanted to have a serious discussion with him about what I was doing, what was going to further my career, what kinds of roles were good or bad for me. But he couldn’t be bothered, and next thing I knew, I had been loaned out to a totally strange studio without my consent or even my knowledge. (143)
*Notice how she does not mention the agent’s name—what a lady!

Ever the trouper, she made the best of the situation and put on fine performances in both thrillers. (Critics concur—see what New York Times writers Bosley Crowther and E.J.B. penned here and here about the films.)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

September/October Viewing Journal

Since my last viewing update in mid-September, I have been immersed in the community college and middle school worlds of lesson planning, teaching and grading. Life is busy but good. My students are fantastic, my colleagues are supportive and my family has been incredibly understanding of my crazy hours. Now and then I even get to catch a movie. Here is what I have been up to classic movie-wise:

*Impressed by Ruth Chatterton's performance in Female (1933), I DVR-ed The Crash (1932) last June. I finally got around to watching it in September. The film stars Ruth Chatterton and her husband at the time, George Brent. Her role is no more than a glorified prostitute, trading herself for stock secrets to assist her Wall Street banker hubby in getting ahead. The turning point occurs when Linda's (Chatterton) sexiness fails, and she is unable to obtain crucial information. Unwilling to admit that she has lost her pizzazz--horror of horrors! as this is her only commodity--Linda lies, which results in everyone they know, from servants to the high-brow company they keep, to lose their shirts in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. She alone is plagued with guilt. At no point does the movie suggest that her jerk of a husband--equally to blame--should share the guilt. In the end, the intended message is one that the Depression Era audience would have wanted to hear: money is the route of all evil. (To avoid spoilers, I won't tell you how the message is achieved. Suffice it to say that the movie follows one of the formulas outlined by Jeanine Basinger's I Do and I Don't.) However, there is a more subtle message warning women of the dangers of getting old and not admitting it to yourself. Accept your place on the shelf of the once sexy, the movie tells viewers. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dancing Leg Quiz ~ October Edition

Happy Halloween! As you await your trick-or-treaters, here is a quiz to test your musical knowledge. 

Take a look at the following partial pictures. Each dance routine debuted in a movie released or opened in October. Each of the golden decades (30s-60s) is represented.



Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dancing Legs Quiz ~ August/September Edition

How well do you know your musicals? Can you recognize them if given only a partial picture? Take the quiz below and find out.

Each of the dance routines debuted in a movie released in August or September of its year. Guess whose legs they are. Then give yourself a bonus if you can name the movie. 

August movies:


Hint: This is a publicity shot; the actual movie was filmed in color.

September movies:


Good Luck!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

All is Quiet on the Blogging Front

Armed with an arsenal of tech tools, Kleenex boxes, and freshly sharpened pencils, I returned to the classroom front mid-August. Before the natives arrived, I revised lessons, dusted and arranged furniture, designed bulletin boards, hung up inspiration posters, and sat through the annual workplace safety, anti-harassment, and bloodborne pathogen training videos. This time around, I also took on another front--a night class at the community college, which meant additional planning and more videos. While this is a great opportunity, it also means, in the words of Johnny Mercer, "Something's gotta give." For me, that something is the amount of time I spend on Classic Reel Girl.

This is by no means a letter of adieu. Over the next several months, it will be quiet around here, but I'll still be around, #TCMParty-ing and sharing interesting articles via my Twitter feed @ClassicReelGirl. My extra assignment has not interfered with picking up new-to-me movies and revisiting old ones--just with the time spent writing about them.

My Viewing Journal and other things...

*Unfortunately, I had to forego the opportunity to write about the fabulous Female (1933) starring Ruth Chatterton for both the Anti-Damsel Blogathon and Danny's (of fame) The Pre-Code Companion. Each time I watch this movie, I fall more in love with it. I will eventually write about the film, but when I do, I want to make sure my prose does it justice. Right now, my writing would have been rushed.

*On my quest to watch all things taxi-dancer, I finished Lucille Ball's Lured (1947) in early August. At this time, the post is outlined and partially written.

*I started a drama club, in which I expose students to the classics during lunch. Our first theme is "It's a Stage Life." What better way to begin than with a backstage musical in glorious Technicolor: The Band Wagon (1953) starring my pal Fred Astaire. While this is not one of my favorites, I can appreciate it for what it's worth. No need for my personal opinions to interfere with students' education. Next up: 1937's Stage Door.

Source - BuzzQuotes
*Thanks to TCM's Debbie Reynolds Sunday (Aug. 23), I had the opportunity to see Bob Fosse dance in Give a Girl a Break (1953) and The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953). When I was growing up, Fosse was an intangible dance legend. It was a real treat to see him in action. I found his style athletic and very Gene Kelly-ish. Dobie Gillis was especially cute and not at all what I thought it would be based on the TV series of the same name. Pure fluff, but fun. I'd watch it again.

*I caught one movie during TCM's Gary Cooper Sunday (Aug. 30)--one that I wasn't intending to watch in whole, but sometimes you get sucked in and to heck with the laundry... The movie was Love in the Afternoon (1957), which I had not seen in its entirety in years. It was fresh on my mind as I had been contemplating societal attitudes towards free-loving females (Alice Drake in Female) versus males (Cooper's character in Love in the Afternoon) for my Female article. Soon social messages were pushed aside as the music and Audrey's costumes swept me away. From casual to formal, Audrey's style was classic. I also love that she had a normal size foot (the scene where Cooper hides her shoe reveals this)--she is one of us!

*I finally got around to John Huston's Across the Pacific (1942), which has been on my DVR for months. This film reunites Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet who found great success together in 1941's The Maltese Falcon. Their chemistry works again, and it is enjoyable to watch the three actors feed of each other so well. Innuendos fly. (In fact, I was surprised some got past the censors.) The ending feels overdone, almost as though the writing became self-conscious of itself and world events. Research after viewing the film confirmed this. According to Mary Astor's autobiography, the plot, which detailed a Japanese invasion of Hawaii, was changed when Pearl Harbor was actually bombed (TCMDb). To be honest, I'd still watch the film again if only to catch the juicy lines of dialogue.

*For years I have been trying to sit down and watch The Pirate (1948), and I almost did last week. Instead, I mainly caught the dream sequence. All I have to say about that is: Gene Kelly's thigh. Did you get a load of how large it is?? Whoever says dancing is not a sport is mistaken. He could easily take on a football player or WWE wrestler. (Isn't WWE wrestling a choreographed dance anyways? Just sayin'...)

*In honor of the start of a new school year--and my obsession with Anne Shirley movies the last several years, I caught Sorority House (1939) on WatchTCM's On Demand. It is a sweet, fluff story. The biggest point of interest was the message at the end of the film which alluded to Nazi Germany. Shirley's father (J. M. Kerrigan) advises his daughter and her friends:
Just take care of yourselves. Strikes me that most of the grief in the world today is caused by people acting just like you youngsters. Forming cliques and hating everybody else. Now call it what you will. Sororities, clubs, states, or even nations. Nobody has that right. To go about telling the other fella what he ought to do. Live and let live. Let that be your motto.
His speech gives us a peek into the American attitude toward World War II before we were directly involved. We knew something bad was occurring over there, but we were not yet willing to fully face the problem--just take care of ourselves.

*Central Park (1932) caught my eye when I saw Joan Blondell starred in the film. What can I say? This was a miss for me. Blondell was beautiful as usual and played a likeable character. Her co-star (Wallace Ford) was not too bad either. I especially liked when his hair fell out of place in a kind of 1990s 'do as he washed the motorcycles. His character hailed from Arizona (shout out to all my AZ family) as evidenced by the stereotypical cowboy hat and boots. Then the weirdness ensued. There was an escaped lunatic zookeeper (John Wray) and police officer (Guy Kibbee) who seemed to have very little to do with the main story, but given equal time as the Blondell/Ford plot. Not sure what happened with the screenwriting. It was as if the pages of two screenplays accidentally got mixed together... Very odd.

*I'm still finishing September Star of the Month Susan Howard's They Won't Believe Me (1947) which Theresa of CineMaven recommended to me after reading my Out of the Past post. I keep falling asleep because I want to watch it when it's quiet (i.e., the kids are in bed, so it's late at night). So far it is a good one! Thank you, Theresa, for the recommendation.

Ciao until next time!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Summer Under the Stars: Fred Astaire

On August 5th, TCM will celebrate one of the greatest--if not THE greatest--dancers to ever grace the silver screen: Fred Astaire. While the plots of his films are sometimes criticized for their (delightful) fluff, one aspect that cannot be disputed is the dance. Ever the perfectionist, Astaire's technique is flawless. His choreography, often created in collaboration with Hermes Pan, is inventive, utilizing the new medium of film to take dance to a level not possible on stage. As a dance partner, he is generous, allowing his female counterpart to shine, but he also ensures a solo in the film to showcase his own skills. 

And that quibble about plot? Sure, the overall material is light, but the songs and dances are not randomly placed entertainment to be burst into at any time. They further the plot and the relationship between the characters--a revolutionary idea when Astaire first arrived on the scene in the early 1930s. Watch how Astaire enters a dance. He walks into it, allowing the music to gradually pull him to the steps as in "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (Roberta). Or his dialogue gradually shifts into song as he begins to talk-sing the lyrics as in "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" (Shall We Dance). The dance becomes an extension of the story's action and dialogue. It reveals the characters' personalities or conflicts they are experiencing. By the end of the number, for better or worse his relationship with his dance partner has evolved. 

Without further ado... 

Whether you've seen his films hundreds of times or can't get past the plot and need to fast-forward (for shame!) to the good stuff, here is a list of dances that you should view to understand the greatness of Fred Astaire. For the sake of keeping this post a manageable length, I will highlight one number from each movie that will be shown on August 5th, but honestly I could have included two or three per film. This was difficult!

~ ~ ~

1) Flying Down to Rio (1933) ~ 6 am ET/ 3 am PT


Why you should see it: The number captures the state of dance in the early '30s (Busby Berkeley-ish inner circle, focus on geometrical patterns) and hints to where dance was going (the outer circle, focus on "real" dancing). The choreography was the brainchild of a then unknown Hermes Pan. Credit is due to Astaire who recognized Pan's talent and paved the way for the young choreographer in the business. This is also the number that started the whole Astaire-Rogers craze.
 ~ ~ ~  

2) The Gay Divorcee (1934) ~ 7:30 am ET/ 4:30 am PT


Why you should see it: Astaire and Rogers kick it up a notch when they whirl up and down a tiny table and chairs. It's an amazing feat of balance, rhythm, momentum, and grace. The space is small and a single misstep could cause them to tumble to the ground. Astaire originally performed THE TABLE DANCE with Claire Luce in The Gay Divorce, the play on which the film is loosely based. According to Astaire, this "swell trick" did in fact result in "many a fall rehearsing [...] and occasionally [Luce and Astaire] fell during the show, too" (176). Thank goodness the "trick" was preserved in this film, so we can enjoy a piece of old Broadway.
~ ~ ~

3) Roberta (1935) ~ 9:30 am ET/ 6:30 am PT


Why you should see it: This is the first romantic number Astaire choreographed for himself and Rogers. It is relatively simple compared to the 18-step staircases and skates to come, yet there is an intimate quality to the dance--more is professed in step than any spoken love scene. The couple enter arm in arm, heads together. Only the tune can break their hold. At one point Astaire reaches for Rogers but resists his urge to touch her, bringing his hand towards is heart instead--a sense of his character's unfulfilled desire. As they dance they are one with the music, movements reaching crescendo as the song does. The music softens, and Rogers puts her head on Astaire's shoulder. In response, he gently places his hand over her head. A tender exchange has occurred without dialogue, but in case anyone needs to hear the words, the next scene solidifies it: he has proposed and she has accepted. 
~ ~ ~

4) Top Hat (1935) ~ 11 am ET/ 8 am PT


Astaire versus Rogers' feathered dress

Why you should see it: Astaire demonstrates how to handle on-the-job complications with dignity. Per the star of the day:
The dancing dresses of my partners have, for years, been a working problem, and in Top Hat I dare say it reached its dizzy peak. (207)
When Rogers began to dance, feathers flew everywhere--over the floor, on Astaire's clothes, and in his face. Astaire was NOT happy, but maintained composure and danced on. Neither Astaire's frustration nor the flying feathers could be perceived on film, so all ended well. Later (off screen), Astaire lightened the mood by singing a new version of "Cheek to Cheek" to his dance partner:

Feathers--I hate feathers--
And I hate them so that I can hardly speak,
And I never find the happiness I seek
With those chicken feathers dancing
Cheek to Cheek. (210)

In her autobiography, Rogers recalls that Astaire also gave her a feather bracelet charm as a peace offering. What a gentleman!
~ ~ ~ 

5) Follow the Fleet (1936) ~ 1 pm ET/ 10 am PT


Source - Doctor Macro

Why you should see it: Astaire and Rogers play working-class folk and their dancing reflects it. The movements in this number are more down-to-earth jazzy than sophisticated ballroom. Instead of standing erect, shoulders back, arms outstretched, Astaire and Rogers let loose. They throw their bodies around, clap their hands, jump heels-first into steps, and Astaire even tosses Rogers onto his hip. They are approachable, the guy and gal who might live next door. The couples they "compete" with are actual dance contest winners, which further give Astaire and Rogers an accessibility not felt in prior films.

Another number to check out - Astaire's battle with Rogers' beaded sleeve in LET'S FACE THE MUSIC AND DANCE. Those who don't know the story: Rogers' heavy sleeve whacked Astaire in the face, leaving him "knocked groggy" (his words). Despite retakes, the first--with the sleeve slap--was the best and is the one we see in the film today. Bonus: the beautiful art deco set and the story that unfolds within the dance, which is part of a play in the film
~ ~ ~

6) Swing Time (1936) ~ 3 pm ET/ 12 pm PT


Why you should see it: Astaire emotes his character's anguish through dance. It's near the end of the movie and the outlook is dreary. Astaire has lost his girl. As he walks beside her, his body language pleads for her to dance. She consents (this is an Astaire-Rogers movie after all!). The music and movements recall earlier parts of the film, and Astaire and Rogers expertly move through the changing tempos. The result is a dance that summarizes what has occurred between the characters. It is his final attempt to win her back through shared memory, but it does not work. In a final turn, she briskly walks away, leaving him to himself. Shoulders slumped, he is alone and dejected. 

Astaire and Rogers' flight up the 18-step staircase is another reason this number is impressive. They didn't merely ascend face-forward--they spin too! Legend has it that the duo danced up the steps 40+ times. This may be an exaggeration. They reshot 48 times; however the bulk of the retakes were after Astaire and Rogers already reached the top of the staircase. According to Pan, the last sixteen bars is where they ran into difficulties (Franceschina 78), and Rogers' account supports this when she states they "danced and danced and danced" on the second floor (194). In her book about Astaire and Rogers, Arlene Croce explains the camera angle moves to a stationary shot at the top of the stairs, ending the continuous take--which is how Astaire preferred to have his dances filmed--because the dance's "climax, a spine-chilling series of turns by Rogers, took forty takes to accomplish" (113).

If you look closely, you can see the cut towards the end of the dance, where Pan and Croce indicate the team began retake after retake.

Left: continuous crane shot  - Right: second floor stationary shot
~ ~ ~

7) Carefree (1938) ~ 4:45 pm ET/ 1:45 pm PT


Why you should see it: People who are in the know about golf say this Astaire solo is impressive. He makes swinging a golf club and hitting the ball look effortless though it is much more difficult than non-golfers might think. How did he make it look so easy? Lots of practice on the golf course, of course!
I had about three hundred golf balls and five men shagging them, a piano and Hal Borne to play for me, and several buckets of iced beer. (235)
No wonder the dancer stated this was one of his favorite solos. 

~ ~ ~

8) The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) ~ 6:15 pm/ 3:15 pm


Source - Doctor Macro

Why you should see it: Astaire and Rogers capture the signature dancing style of Vernon and Irene Castle on film. Compared to clips of the Castles, Rogers' front-facing kicks are higher and Astaire's footwork appears fancier, though the later is probably due to better film technology which adds clarity to the picture. Under Irene Castle's supervising eye (she served as technical advisor on the film), it would have been difficult to deviate from the original steps. Truth be told, it's nice to have an authentic recreation of the Castles' historically significant numbers.
~ ~ ~

9) Shall We Dance (1937) ~ 8 pm ET/ 5 pm PT


Why you should see it: Always up for a challenge, Astaire joins Rogers on skates in a number that will leave you nostalgic for the roller rink. How many takes until they got it just right? 150 per studio records (Franceschina 88).
~ ~ ~

10) You Were Never Lovelier (1942) ~ 10:15 pm ET/ 7:15 pm PT


Source - WikiCommons

Why you should see it: Astaire swings! Well, sort of... Life magazine describes it as "[c]oupling ballet with jitterbug" (66), but that's close enough in my book. He gets down, shows his fancy footwork, then swings with Rita Hayworth to Xavier Cugat's band. Astaire and Hayworth respected each other's talents and enjoyed working together. It shows. The joy in this number is so infectious you might find yourself tapping along with Hayworth from the sidelines. She is soon on her feet, though, proving to be Astaire's equal on the dance floor. 
~ ~ ~

11) The Band Wagon (1953) ~ 12 am ET/ 9 pm PT


Why you should see it: Astaire leaves the tricks at home and performs an elegant dance with Cyd Charisse. Their movements mirror the music, arms hitting accent notes with long, beautiful lines and bodies rising as the notes get higher. Astaire dances in character. At the beginning of the number he watches his partner's feet, clearly pondering the question she asked  two scenes earlier, "Can you and I really dance together?" Astaire does not turn off Astaire the actor to become Astaire the dancer. Astaire is dancer and actor at all times.
~ ~ ~ 

12) Silk Stockings (1957)  ~ 2 am ET/ 11 pm PT

The Dance: ALL OF YOU

Why you should see it: The number contains elements of Astaire's previous dances, making it a fitting final salute to his dancing career in studio system movie musicals.* Reminiscent of the hat rack in Royal Wedding, he briefly dances with a chair. Like many of the routines from his and Rogers' films, the characters' conflicts are illustrated through dance. This time Astaire's Steve beseeches Charisse's Ninotchka to enjoy the capitalistic ways of dance and romance. He pulls her into the dance, she dances a little but tries to resist, and he persistently pulls her back again--similar to "Night and Day" in The Gay Divorcee and "Never Gonna Dance" in Swing Time. As Steve watches Ninotchka fall under the spell of dance, there are hints of Astaire's psychiatrist and Rogers' hypnotized Amanda from "Change Partners" in Carefree. This number is also evidence of Astaire's growth as a dancer. In Carefree, Pan had to coax Astaire into throwing Rogers over his legs during "The Yam" because Astaire did not believe he was built to lift. In both "All of You" and its reprise, Astaire performs several lifts with Charisse.

*He appeared in one last musical, Finian's Rainbow in 1968, but Silk Stockings was his final studio system era musical.
~ ~ ~

13) Royal Wedding (1951) ~ 4 am ET/ 1 am PT


Source - Doctor Macro

Why you should see it: You haven't lived until you've seen Astaire dancing on the ceiling! How was it done? Look away now if you don't want to dispel the magic or are determined to figure out the secret on your own. The room was built within a rotating barrel, the furniture was secured to the walls, and the cameraman was attached to a platform that rotated with the room. Meanwhile Astaire danced as the room revolved around him. Bravo to all involved!

Other numbers of note - In "Sunday Jumps" Astaire does an impressive number with a hat rack. "Open Your Eyes" is pulled from Astaire's real-life experience with his sister Adele when they performed on an ocean liner during a storm. We may not have Adele's dancing captured on film, but at least we have this memory.
 ~ ~ ~ 

This post is part of the 2015 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film. Visit her blog daily to read new posts on each star of the day.


"Astaire Dances with Hayworth." Life 9 Nov 1942: 64-70. Web. 1 Aug 2015.

Astaire, Fred. Steps in Time. 1959. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. Print.

Croce, Arlene. The Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Book. 1972. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1987. Print.

Franceschina, John. Hermes Pan: The Man Who Danced with Fred Astaire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.

Holmes, Alex. "Impact: Fred Astaire, dancer/golf trick shot artist." Golf Digest. 16 April 2014. Web. 1 Aug 2015.

Miller, Frank. "Royal Wedding (1951)." TCM. N.d. Web. 29 July 2015.

Rogers, Ginger. Ginger: My Story. 1991. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. Print.

Photos without sources are taken by me. No copyright infringement is intended by the use of images shared on this blog. Images are used only to enhance or pay tribute, not intended for any commercial use. If you feel your copyright has been infringed upon, please contact me via email, and I will take down the image immediately.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Dancing Legs Quiz ~ July Edition

How well do you know your musicals? Can you recognize them if given only a partial picture? Take the quiz below and find out.

Each of the dance routines debuted in a movie released in July of its year. Guess whose legs they are. Then give yourself a bonus if you can name the movie. 




The answers are located on the Dancing Quiz Answers tab at the top of the page.

Good luck!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies

ISBN 978-0-307-26916-4
Jeanine Basinger's I Do and I Don't is clearly the work of extensive, passionate research. The film historian explains that marriage is rarely the main subject of films and certainly never advertised as such. In order to give the marriage movie a face, she viewed hundreds of films in search of plots where "the state of being married" was the sole focus (xvi). Basinger divided her findings into three sections: The Silent Era (20 pages), The Studio System (280+ pages), and The Modern Era (50+ pages). Each is peppered with photographs (on the back inside flap, the book boasts 139 illustrations), which give visual support to Basinger's assertions.

It is supreme irony that moviegoers could be conned into believing in romance that led to happy endings in one kind of movie, and then be shown that what came after the happily-ever-after was pretty awful...yet still be conned all over again into believing that the awfulness could be fixed, made new, and restored to the point of the original happy ending. (Basinger 3)
Arbuckle & Normand, comedic marriage movie team
From a cinematic standpoint, marriage must be plagued with problems because conflict is fundamental to good storytelling. If there is no conflict in the marriage, there is no story to tell. Basinger examines how Hollywood packaged these marital problems. During the silent era, filmmakers presented marriage and its problems in two extremes: either “raucous comedy or stark tragedy” (7). Assuming viewers were married and miserable, the comedy invited them to laugh at their joint misery. On the other hand, the drama told a cautionary tale upholding societal values, but not before letting the audience view plenty of sin and, as Basinger puts it, “Participate without consequences” (16). The films also allowed their viewers to escape to an exotic location and vicariously share in a luxurious lifestyle with grand bathrooms, furniture, and clothes. The historian notes these last elements can still be seen in today’s films with their large homes and elaborate kitchens.

In the next section, Basinger describes a shift from the exaggerated to the more familiar under the studio system. She details all aspects of the studio system formula—the purpose, patterns, couples, problems, and situations—making the book an ideal read for students of film studies. Movies made during this period reassured married viewers that all ends well for those who stick with it through hard times. According to Basinger, two patterns emerged: the “I Do” pattern of affirm-question-reaffirm-resolve and the “I Don’t” divorce pattern (told in flashback) of question-affirm-resolve-reaffirm. The latter movie discussed divorce, but the event never actually occurred due to the Production Code, hence the reaffirm portion of the pattern. Basinger also covers variations of the marriage movie: “without love” and “oops, we’re not married!” marriages. In these films, tension is built because the chase continues despite the couple being married.

Basinger identifies seven recurring problems in the studio system marriage movie: money, infidelity and/or adultery, in-laws and children, incompatibility, social class, addiction, and murder. She cites numerous examples of each type of problem, noting that most movies have a combination of forces at work. In case some might think the issues are strictly American, Basinger also delves into foreign films demonstrating that “marriage films transcend cultural differences. […] Croissants, smorgasbords, or green tea, marriage is just marriage” (252).

Before moving into the final portion of her book, Basinger looks at the one external problem that can overrule the other seven: “when a movie married couple faced a large, historical situation outside their control, such as the war (and later the Sexual Revolution), their problems were subjugated to the situation” (254). This part of the book would be especially appealing to anyone who enjoys learning about World War II as Basigner spends much time analyzing WWII films. Through research of memoirs, newspaper and magazine articles, she verifies the authenticity of the events portrayed in such films, finding the circumstances on the home front not far from what was projected onscreen. To further prove her point that the situation "trumps" all other problems, she shows that the absence of war (the situation) results in the return of the seven prewar problems in films. 

The final section encompasses movies from the 1960s forward. While the section appears small, it is important to note that Basinger incorporates modern movie examples throughout the book whenever appropriate. With social change, marriage was no longer an expected state of the human experience. Women, the primary target of the marriage movie, were not interested in the institution. The genre declined as filmmakers avoided the financially unsound subject. When a marriage movie was made, the characters often debated or discussed the institution--an ongoing trend which Basinger coins "the therapy session." There are movies, however, that continue to follow the old formulas. Analyzing one of the examples, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005), Basinger observes, "As is always the case, marriage is destroyed and restored, shown to be unworkable, and then worked out" (343). On the flip side, the author takes note of an emerging theme in current movies, one in which there is "no resolution, no closure, no reassurance, and finally, no explanation" (358). She predicts that this will be the future of the marriage movie.

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Basinger's book is conversational in tone. As such, there are quick asides throughout, often humorous in nature. For example, regarding the perfect "older" husband during the studio system: 
He was rich, he gave you everything, he solved all your problems--and then he died and got out of your way so you could marry a really hot guy. (115 in footnote) 
Describing the plot of The Egg and I:
They set out in his car, and as they drive farther and farther up into the thickly wooded hills on their way to their new home, the goat they are bringing with them eats her new hat. (Every woman in the audience immediately knows that this hat thing is a terrible omen.) (124)
These comments do not take away from the book as she does not veer off the path for long. In fact her quips are often located in parentheses or footnotes. If the reader prefers a more straightforward read, the comments can be avoided altogether. However, in my opinion, they add flavor, a personal touch to her book.

On her quest to document the history of marriage in movies, Basinger describes hundreds of films from the silents to modern day. Everyone who reads her book should walk away with a few new films to view. (As I write, I have two films waiting on my DVR--one new and one I wish to revisit after reading her take on it.) Basinger also includes a brief analysis of TV marriage sitcoms in her book, so readers might come away with a new sitcom to check out as well.

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In addition to reading I Do and I Don't, individuals may be able to take a free course on the subject from Basinger via Coursera (the class has been offered the past two years, no information on when it will be offered in the future). Those who have taken the course will most likely be bored by the book as much of the lecture follows the text word for word. If you read the book first, the bonus of taking the course would be the opportunity to hear and see Basinger (lectures are prerecorded), view clips of a few movies she describes in the book, and discuss the films with other students who are taking the course. The course is not graded, so it is a low pressure environment.
Work Cited

Basinger, Jeanine. I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies. New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 2012. Print. 

This review is part of the 2015 -

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