26 December 2011

What you probably didn't know about the Gables...


I've built up this fantasy, this picture perfect of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard and their relationship for so long now - just to have it all shattered during the Christmas holidays (!). I might as well go tell a small child that Santa is a load of c***, pardon my language! 

Maybe it's shouldn't come as such a great shock, though. After all, it's not just the politicians who need spin doctors to 'fix' their precious image. I guess many celebrity couples went through pretty much the same back then as they do today. Perhaps it was all just a PR stunt (Clark wasn't called "The King of Hollywood" for nothing), perhaps it was simply silly gossip, perhaps they genuinely loved each other (which is  rather obvious when you watch their home videos and candid photos of them), but I hardly know what to believe anymore.

Maybe I should just stay in my naïve little fairy-tale fantasy. As Oscar Wilde once so cynically put it:

The secret of life is to appreciate the pleasure of being terribly, terribly deceived.

16 December 2011

Latin Lover: Rudolph Valentino

The handsome grin of Rudolph in his last film, "The Son of
the Sheik", before his untimely, tragic death at the age of 31.

Decided to turn on my old interest for the silent era once again. Began with legendary, Italian-born, dead-too-young superstar Rudolph Valentino. First, "The Sheik" (1921) and then "The Son of the Sheik" (1925). The latter better than its prequel. More realistic acting and less dramatic, wide-eyed facial expressions. Also quite humorous with some short, endearing chit-chatter scenes (without intertitles) between the lovers that almost look unscripted. And Rudolph did a good job portraying both father and son, giving both roles character and independence to stand out for themselves. In one scene they're brought together in the same room,  and I'll have to say that it's rather well made and edited. Definitely, more realistic than when the two Lindsay Lohans were brought together in the 'fantastic' "The Parent Trap". That sort of shoots down the arguments that they couldn't make special effects back then, right?

On next was the breakthrough for young Rudolph (though perhaps most famously known for "The Sheik") in "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1921). It wasn't as memorable as the others, I admit, though the story was fine, a bit dragging at times, but always with a couple of smoldering looks from a thoughtful, lovesick Valentino.

Then I saw "The Eagle" (1925), with a re-appearance of the heroine, Vilma Bánky, from "The Son of the Sheik", once more the beautiful love interest of our handsome hero, Rudolph. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this film. Definitely a lot more flow in the storytelling, the 'lines' and the expressions, less stagy and more tender than most silent movies, and added a good deal of humour, which Rudy didn't lose one bit. He was great! I actually found myself laughing at his sweet little gestures among all the dramatic stuff that was going on. Vilma did it rather fine too, despite the usual fainting and hand-wringing, and she looked gorgeous! Saying that, I also feel I need to stress how Rudolph appeared on the screen...! Pardon me - but holy smokes! Seeing all those muscles flexing in "The Son of the Sheik" was far jaw-droppingly enough. Can't really blame the ladies of the 1920s for fainting and going into mass hysteria (or in my case sighing loudly) at the sight of him. I've always found all that 'Latin Lover' stuff a bit tacky and ridiculous but after having seen his movies ... boy, I've been wrong! And now, realizing that Rudolph was already fatally sick during the production of "The Son of the Sheik" and that it was released posthumously, it's still hard to fathom that such a beautiful, virile young man should die so soon and quickly.

Aren't they pretty together?
Vilma Bánky and Rudolph Valentino
in "The Eagle", 1925, his second last film.

Lastly, I finally got to see "Beyond the Rocks" from 1922 (gee, was it hard to find!); Rudy's only pairing with fellow silent screen legend and goddess, Gloria Swanson, a film once thought lost but luckily retrieved in 2003. And what a treat to see those two starlets together! It's a battle of screen presence with these two magnetic creatures! And excuse me, has Rudy looked any better than in this film!? Not so much muscle flexing, more like: 'Damn, did he look nice in 1920s' clothing! In any kind of (or non-existing) clothes, really!' His sophisticated facial expressions are also very sweet and rather understated in this one. Golly, could that man show how to be in love or what with all those smoldering looks going on..! And I guess the whole wide-eyed-wide-grin routine was just a way to appear 'barbaric' in "The Sheik"..? Oh well, I'm just glad to appreciate all of his features at any given chance, 'cause hey, what's there not to like?

Here's some more Rudy eye candy from "Beyond the Rocks" (go see it and you'll agree):

14 December 2011

An Old Flame Revisited: Robin and Marian (1976)

Another film worth defending. "Robin and Marian" from 1976, starring two of my favorite actors, Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn (finally together on-screen) and besides, Robert Shaw and Richard Harris, which are also superb actors, in my opinion. Just this combination alone is enough for me to like this film - in fact, I love it! Oh, well it's been called average, not much of an adventure and rather silly when it comes to the stunts, and to some extent I agree with that; it could have been better technically, yet I find the movie searching for something beyond and deeper than what the typical swashbuckling movies portray (because, honestly; I'm a bit tired of the ecstatic Errol Flynn version and the gagging Kevin Costner-Robin Hood).

"Robin and Marian" doesn't give any glorified picture of the given time period, during and following the infamous Crusades - and much less of oh-so-good King Richard the Lion-Heart (ironically, Sean Connery would later play him in the horrible Kevin Costner version). Actually, it's quite the opposite. And Richard Harris is the only one to portray a disillisioned, half-daft, unscrupulous murderer of a legendary British King. The thought of Robin following his King faithfully through 20 years, crusading foreign, hot countries far from home, doing the King's every bidding and still going strong and maintain his own humanity (which the legend of Robin Hood is all about, really) is for once and for all questioned.

To be frank, I got a shock. Sure, I've paid attention in history class; the Crusades were pure massacre and carnage, nothing to be proud of, but the way it was so explicitly shown on the screen, adding Richard Harris' ingenius performance of, basically, a lunatic king, I was a bit surprised, to say the least. Perhaps, it has been seen many times before. Perhaps, it is history repeated. Yet, it stuck on my mind, and I realized how silly we (mostly the West) have tried to portray ourselves throughout the years, in movies as well as in legends. Some of those legendary kings and knights in shining armour have come out a bit too glorified for their own good over the years. This film certainly shows another side of those legendary stories, and all for the better, I believe! And it's good we can always rely on Monty Python and Mel Brooks to stir things up as well, aye? ;)

Well, back to my focus: Robin and Marian. Sean and Audrey. They take, of course, most of the credit for this film's successful outcome. It's their mutual relationship, interactions, feelings and story we follow, feel and share throughout everything else. Every line they utter has something captivating and touching attached to it; without ever, EVER being too cheesy or soppy or superficial. Their few, but tender scenes together unite the movie and make it a wonderful love story that for once doesn't involve a new budding infatuation between two young, naive people, but tells of an old love set aflame between two experienced, scarred adults who have been apart for two decades and find themselves again. Their humble, yet underneath passionate love is refound, though they're reluctant to admit it at first. They have never stopped loving each other, even though they've matured in other ways; not grown apart, just been faced with reality too many times. But their love is to feel through the screen and makes everything else seem colourless. The tragic ending is all the wait worth, and includes one of the most beautiful lines (and scenes), I think Audrey has ever conveyed. Altogether, it pulls the film above average. To me, it stands out.

"I love you. More than all you know. I love you more than children. More than fields I've planted with my hands. I love you more than morning prayers or peace or food to eat. I love you more than sunlight, more than flesh or joy, or one more day. I love you...more than God."

02 December 2011

Classic Actresses in Stunning Adrian Dresses

Remember the extravagant costumes and gowns in films such as "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936), "Camille" (1936), "Marie Antoinette" (1938) and "The Women" (1939)?

Adrian Adolph Greenberg (1903-1959) (or more known as Adrian) was a famous American costume designer known for his costumes for over 250 films, mostly Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer films during the 1930s and 1940s, and for his  long-time work with some of the greatest leading actresses during this period (many of the ladies pictured below).
Sadly, he was never nominated for an Academy Award.

He was famously quoted:

"It was because of Garbo that I left M-G-M. In her last picture they wanted to make her a sweater girl, a real American type. I said, 'When the glamour ends for Garbo, it also ends for me. She has created a type. If you destroy that illusion, you destroy her.' When Garbo walked out of the studio, glamour went with her, and so did I."

Here are just a few examples of some of his riveting collections worn by our stylish icons:

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer
Katharine Hepburn

Jean Harlow

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo with the designer himself

And not to forget: Judy Garland's iconic red shoes!