28 April 2014

Romance Stories Under Scrutiny: The Gentleman Complex - From "Twilight" to "Pride & Prejudice"

I was watching "Twilight Eclipse" the other day (just to see how bad it really is) and though I laughed and cringed my way all the way through, the most awful moment in movie was perhaps when Edward is refusing to have sex with Bella merely because he's 'old school'; holding on to the 'ancient' notion that pre-marital sex is a sin. A 'rule' which he claims has something to do with the fact that he's from a different era where "things were less complicated" - apparently. He tells her that if he'd met her back then he would have courted her at home, taken chaperoned strolls with her and might even have stolen a kiss or two from her. All the innocent things that eventually lead to a marriage proposal, several years of a just-as-innocent engagement before finally being able to seal the deal and make it to the marriage bed. Hmm, okay, Edward, you seem to suggest that this notion is a general moral rule that is directly connected to the fact that you were born hundred of years before Bella. But this notion has nothing to do with morality, not even back then as you so romantically make it out to be. It was a convention set by the standard of society and disguised as a moral sin if broken. There's a big difference, although cleverly disguised. Believe you me, men certainly did break this rule before marriage, often with *hush-hush* ladies of the night, whereas women were left in 'blissful' ignorance - not knowing a thing or two about sex nor that their soon-to-be-husbands often weren't as innocent as claimed to be - until their presumably shocking wedding nights. Society - which notably was patriarchal - secretly accepted this because "they were men, after all, it's different when it's women" yet, publicly denounced it which basically made the society extremely hypocritical. However, dear Edward makes it out as if all men from that era were born with some sort of special moral code that made them different from all the ones to come; that they were somehow more decent or innocent back then - real gents... Gee, everybody basically just repressed or denied those carnal urges until they got all screwed up inside. Things were less complicated back then, you say..? And talk about repressing all kinds of basic desires, you certainly should know, though you might personally claim to have a decent set of moral codes. 
In the end, the movie basically just demonstrates the exact same hypocritical, mind, not-so-ancient notion of a conservative society and film industry that tries to pull certain strings when it comes to 'the chastity of these young people who seem to worship these God-forsaken creatures of the night' and whose fangs basically scream of penetration in more than one way. Rather brilliantly done actually. Ugh, I hate how movies like Twilight twists everything around, like basic historical facts that kids growing up watching these wretched movies should be aware of, rather than be lied to! But I guess it's too much to ask from a movie like this that practically brainwashes young people into some sort of weird ideal for their present and future romantic life.

However, I get the whole nostalgia thing. I of all should! The romanticization of another time where men seemed more decent and behaved more gentlemanlike. Believe me, I’ve had that major crush on the mysterious, brooding Mr. Darcy; wishing he could come and whisk me away, but I also knew that Mr. Darcy was a unique case back then; as unique as he would be today. But that is exactly the point: he could just as well exist today! 
The dangerous thing about girls fantasizing about Jane Austen’s heroes, I think, is the way many, more or less, make Mr. Darcy exemplary for the male race of the 19th century. Hellooo! Have you girls totally forgotten about Wickham - or for that matter Willoughby, Mr. Elliot, Henry Crawford and all the other shady guys ever so present in Austen's novels?!
It’s rather obvious that the stories Austen wrote were fiction; ‘fantasies coming true’ as implied in the film “Becoming Jane” (2007); the dream of finding true love AND wealth for young unmarried girls. The chance of that happening back then was likely one in a million as it is today (a realistic rather than cynical thought). And I bet that Jane met more than her fair share of Wickham-like scumbags (not that all men back then were like Wickham either, but in the end no one can see him/herself as entirely innocent). My point is that once again ONE specific male character becomes representative for a whole generation of men that were far from all that Darcy-like. Young girls today cry out that they want the era of Mr. Darcy, back where men were gentlemen, clinging to 'the idea of a simpler world, where love was straightforward and lasting'; a notion no one apparently find problematic and brush it off as the usual fictional crush. However, I sure find it problematic when these young people seemingly apply these fictive notions to real life prospects and expectations and thus alter a lot of historic and factual context surrounding the era and fiction of Austen. And not just young people, but people of all ages and classes, apparently hold on to this notion, even - or especially after having met disappointments dealing with love in real life. But I ask:  Why do you think it was more likely to find 'a Mr. Darcy' back then than today? Why don’t you think Mr. Darcy couldn’t exist today? (Isn't that what "Bridget Jones's Diary" is all about?) And is it really so much more important to have a Mr. Darcy in your life than to acquire the qualities from some of Austen's leading ladies - like this Someecard apparently depicts? (and it starts out so well, ugh): 

'Mostly'? Really!? Is this what feminism has come to..?! I
don't think Austen would be very pleased with this.

Once again, the 19th century was a time of conventions rather than a certain morality when it came to how to act and behave. Remember, you could hardly talk to a person before you had been introduced to them by another person that you knew beforehand! The English society perhaps more than any other is engulfed in an immanent politeness to this day, so imagine how it was back then. Sure, one could argue that the immediate politeness and good manners back then certainly couldn’t hurt to bring back to this day – most of all the impressive eloquence – but I still think I’d prefer to live today, since it’s somewhat easier to distinguish good people from bad people, broadly speaking, from their ways of acting and behaving, as we aren’t expected to act all polite and mannered all the time in all of life’s aspects today. It’s like that layer of formal façade has been put down in favor of a more informal approach to people – albeit with debatable equal amounts of advantages and disadvantages to the language. Not that people today cannot act devilishly smooth on the outside and then prove to be total scumbags on the inside, but back then you just should act polite all the time. An upfront that made it perhaps all the more tense and exciting during the courtship itself but also equally hindering, frustrating and easily led to misunderstandings as Jane Austen demonstrates so well in her stories. And I believe that made it only the more harder to tell 'the goodies' from 'the baddies', since everybody put up that nice front of gentlemanly façade. Of course, Jane Austen - being the amazing judge of character that she was - could see through them, yet made it clear through her female leads that even the best can be deceived. This said, it also gives way to an universal truth that only makes her books all the more better.

But I’m afraid that Jane Austen’s other ‘intent’ of writing these stories has become a bit obscured. The fantasies were lived out, true, and the bad guys put to shame, while demonstrating great wit and intellect through her writing and human perception of her own society and era of living. Yet, paradoxically, time can be praising and cruel at the same time: Her works became classics but - as it so often happens - were not freed of romanticized interpretations and now many fans tend to see past certain aspects of her ironic writing and self-conscious position. One should always be critical – even though it’s hard to be so in a devoted fandom (oh do I know!). Yet, in my belief, you can be critical in a constructive way without ruining your fandom. Actually, it can become all the more better when you go deeper into the layers of a literary work, a film, a TV series etc.. (Well, alright, "Twilight" might be an exception to this, but that’s simply because it’s not a fandom of mine, obviously, since I find it horrifically bad).

02 April 2014

Classic Movie Stars Look-Alikes

I secretly pride myself at having quite the visual eye and being good at faces - and while it's a 'gift' that never comes in handy when you spot somebody in the street that you recognize but desperately want to avoid (despite the fact that they've already spotted you too because the recognition practically stands written all over your face) - I always find it great fun to try and detect resemblances and similarities in movies and their stars. When it comes to people, the mere physical resemblance can sometimes be uncanny; at times going to the extreme point of similar mannerisms, certain looks and personal quirks (which makes it so fun to be an impersonator I believe). Or is it all just in my head, I wonder? Oh well, it varies, of course, what people find similar to what or whom and what others don't. I guess it has a lot to do with how we see and associate other people to ourselves and people we know. In the end, I believe visual memory/association to be highly personal and subjective, deeply connected to one's feelings - depending on the significance of the memories, of course.

Anyhow, enough with the 'spacing-out'. This is just some silly stuff and musings I concocted because I - as usual - couldn't help myself. Enjoy ;) 

(PS. I intend to keep updating this list as I come across more look-alikes. Meanwhile, be free to make more suggestions or take a look at some other funny look-alikes throughout time). 

Sylvia Sidney vs. Marion Cotillard

Sylvia Sidney (left) and Marion Cotillard

I once came across this picture on the Internet and I simply couldn't take my eyes of the resemblance between Sylvia and Marion! I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before! Furthermore, Marion has that old star quality about her; a beauty that made her so well-suited for the 1920s' setting of "Midnight in Paris" (where the right picture above is taken from). 

Lew Ayres vs. Robert Walker

Lew Ayres

Robert Walker

I may be totally wrong on this, but there's just such a striking resemblance between these two guys: the large forehead and contemplating look; the small chin and neat hair that gave them an almost boyish vibe. Arguably, Lew was more handsome during his time, but I'll leave it to you to judge. Furthermore, there's a certain Alan Ladd-vibe about these two as well:

Laraine Day vs. Patricia Neal

Laraine Day

Patricia Neal

The resemblance is uncanny and I keep confusing them all the time! There's just something about their eyes and eyebrows when they both looked anxious or troubled... Just watch some of their respective films and see for yourselves; there are lots of similar moments!

Donna Reed vs. Teresa Wright

Donna Reed

Teresa Wright

I don't really know why I keep mistaking them for one another, because they are not really that alike if you look at other pictures of them. Maybe it's the hair? Or their smiles? Or their sweet girl-next-door-persona in, respectively, "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Shadow of a Doubt"? In reality, Teresa reminds me more of Eva Marie Saint or Joan Leslie, whereas Donna almost has a bit of Olivia de Havilland in her...
Olivia de Havilland

Eva Marie Saint
Joan Leslie

Marlene Dietrich vs. Tallulah Bankhead

Marlene Dietrich

Tallulah Bankhead

Of course, people had seen this coming, and I'm sure it has been pointed out before: the bedroom eyes, the nonchalant attitude, the androgynous look, the adjunct in the shape of a handsome man with puppy eyes etc.. One could include Greta Garbo and even Bette Davis in this category, too. Yet, where Marlene and Greta arguably succeeded in using their foreign origin to add to their exotic allure and mystery, and Bette had her undeniably versatile talent, Tallulah - a true 'Scarlett O'Hara' (a part for which she also auditioned for) or should I say the female version of 'Rhett Butler'? - was perhaps overshadowed in terms of being THE silver screen temptress and more known for her controversial lifestyle and attitude off screen (even to have said to have been in a relationship with both Marlene and Greta). However, this is, as I said, debatable. Even Bette admitted to having emulated Tallulah in "Dark Victory", which Tallulah had played on stage. And Tallulah did indeed have a significant influence on women's emancipation which for no reason should be downplayed.

Greta Garbo
Bette Davis

Paul Newman vs. Michelangelo's David

Paul Newman

Michelangelo's David

Okay, okay. This has gone a bit silly, I'll admit, but still there's no doubt about it! I'm utterly convinced that Paul really was a Greek god, originally carved from marble and then took human form, and sent to this planet to set the bar for male beauty PLUS make the silver screen all the more delightful to gaze upon ;D Or maybe he had lived in a previous life, let's say the Renaissance, and Michelangelo just happened to use him as a model for his work...

Vivien Leigh vs. Maureen O'Sullivan

Vivien Leigh

Maureen O'Sullivan

Surely, they could be sisters! With their shared mannerisms, girly voices, dimpled smiles, coquettish/impish nature and at times even feisty beings, not to mention staggering beauty, they could easily have competed for the role as 'Scarlett O'Hara' in "Gone With The Wind" (yet, we're glad Vivien got the role as she was practically born for it!). They even had the chance to play together in the movie "A Yank at Oxford" (1938) just before Vivien was picked for the role as Scarlett. However, it was said that "[...] Leigh felt judged by Maureen O'Sullivan, (whom she had befriended years earlier at school) because O'Sullivan was happily married and Leigh was in the midst of an affair with Laurence Olivier and awaiting word of a divorce from her first husband, Leigh Holman. Therefore, the relationship was 'strained'":

Vivien Leigh (left) and Maureen O'Sullivan

I mean, just look at the similarity!:


Clark Gable vs. Kent Taylor

Clark Gable

Kent Taylor

Apropos, "Gone With The Wind", another major, significant star from the film is (of course) Clark Gable, who seemed to also have a 'twin'..! Something I would have laughed at before this recent and surprising discovery - because to me Clark's looks have always been so very unique. However, I was watching "I Take This Woman" (1940) where the actor Kent Taylor appeared and he immediately struck me by his physical resemblance to Clark - albeit not as tall, nor  deep-voiced and not nearly as magnetic as Clark - and maybe it was simply the moustache that did it, but there were just something so familiar... Apparently, Kent Taylor and Clark Gable shared other than just looks as both their names should reportedly have been used as the inspiration for Superman's alter-ego Clark Kent.

(Btw, I love how serene and happy Clark looked around the making of GWTW - which I guess dear Carole must take most of the credit for - except, of course, if you believe this rumour).

One could also favor including George Brent here, mainly due to his bodily and virile resemblance to Clark, moustache and all (they actually worked together once on Broadway in 1927), yet I would argue Brent's (acting-)persona and voice as less similar to Clark's more demanding one. At times, Brent reminds me more of the mild voice and manners of a distinguished, yet cheerful Ronald Colman, but I guess that's just me. 

George Brent

Also, presently, George Clooney, has been opted as a perfect Clark Gable look-alike; charismatic, masculine and all. Then again, Clooney just as well reminds one of always charming and debonair Cary Grant (what's with all the similar initials, anyway?). You decide:

Clark Gable (left) and George Clooney (right)

Bette Davis vs. Joan Blondell

Joan Blondell (left) and Bette Davis

Joan and Bette only starred in one film together, "Three on a Match" (1932), but were reportedly good friends off-screen as well (though it's hard finding head or tail in the rumours circulating Bette's feuds and friends). Though Bette rather early changed her appearance from blond to brunette which made her stand apart from Joan's iconic blonde persona, they looked very similar during the early thirties. Although, I would argue that Joan had more of the cheeky, down-to-earth and 'rosy-cheeked Betty Grable-beauty' that made her the sex symbol she was in comparison to Bette's more aloof beauty.
Bette (left) and Joan

Joan (left) and Bette

To be continued ...