miliosr

Classic Hollywood/Hollywood's Golden Age

274 posts in this topic

They’re both classics, definitely, although The Lady from Shanghai is far superior to Gilda, IMO. I’m not sure I would put Gilda up there with the Howard Hawks version of The Big Sleep, but that may be a matter of changing tastes and times. (I really dislike the way the character of Gilda is treated.)

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Wow -- this thread is moving in many different directions at once.

For the Rita Hayworth/Ava Gardner class (iconic movie stars who didn't make many iconic movies), would Jane Russell qualify? (She only made one iconic film (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) so she may fall somewhere between the Hayworth/Gardner class and the Faye/Grable class.) She sure looked good at this year's Oscars, though!

For the Robert Taylor class (male stars who were huge in their day but are largely forgotten now), I would nominate Van Johnson and Tyrone Power. I never see Power's films on television and Johnson is probably known as much today for his participation in the musical episode of The Love Boat as for his films. (The musical episode of The Love Boat -- w/ Johnson, Cab Calloway, Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, Ann Miller and Della Reese) should join Esther Williams in the camp Hall of Fame!) :)

I vote for Gilda over The Lady From Shanghai. The movie is perverse in the way the three main characters treat each other but I think Hayworth is dynamite in it.

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Yes I think Jane Russell would qualify as an iconic actress. (All three could be in icons, if icons could be thought of as sytlistically the pictorial equivalent of film noir.)

Gilda is a great studio picture and Lady from Shanghai is a great auteur movie. Lady from Shanghai does the whole von Sternberg thing (Morocco, Lady from Shanghai, Shanghai Gesture, Devil is a Woman) a step better. It looks back to Sternberg and forward to the Kar Wai Wong/Chrisopher Doyle films (2046, In the Mood for Love)

Also Lady from Shanghai is the great San Francisco film, far moreso than Vertigo!

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Gilda is dated for me because of the harshness of the sexual double standard. It’s a good picture. I just don’t enjoy watching it, save for Hayworth and the interestingly twisted relationship between Glenn Ford and George Macready.

It looks......forward to the Kar Wai Wong/Chrisopher Doyle films (2046, In the Mood for Love)

Not such a great compliment in my book :), but you’re right, the connection is clear.

Jane Russell is indeed an icon.....of camp. I mean no disrespect by that.

Tyrone Power is an interesting case. Like Grable, he was a 20th Century Fox star – indeed, he was the 20th Century Fox star. I think he was potentially a better actor than he turned out to be, with more natural assets than Taylor or Johnson (presence, a fine voice, and really extraordinary good looks). Later in his career he did try to get out of his cushy star rut, taking on stage work and pleading with the studio to do more risky pictures such as “Nightmare Alley.” But it seems to have been too late, and he seems to have known it. A sad story.

Thanks for the interesting comments, everyone. Keep them coming!

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For the Robert Taylor class (male stars who were huge in their day but are largely forgotten now), I would nominate Van Johnson and Tyrone Power.

Had Rock Hudson not died of AIDS, he might have been another actor in that group. Good-looking, studio-based actors who didn't make many memorable films. Hudson except for Giant was most noted for making those frothy romantic comedies with Doris Day, another huge star in her day who nowadays is remembered more for being "Doris Day" than for any of the films she made. (Pillow Talk being an exception.)

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Some of us also remember Doris Day in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much and musicals like Pajama Game. In fact, I've seen more of Day's serious work than those war of the sexes films with Hudson.

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My memories of Doris Day predate her movie career, to when she was a great "girl singer" with Les Brown and his Band of Renown. She sounded a bit like Peggy Lee in those days.

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It seems like in the old studio system they very often threw together movies around a star, with no desire to make any kind of masterpiece. If we remember Doris Day more for being Doris Day than for the movies she made, well, that was probably the point. She was a delightful and talented comic actress who could make any mediocre movie fun to watch. I guess it's always been that way for comedians. I don't think there's a single really great Danny Kaye movie (though "The Court Jester" seems to have achieved classic status); they're all just about watching him do his shtick. And today, I don't believe Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, etc., have many many good movies, but audiences flock to them anyway. Even the Marx Brothers movies are all a mess (but they were such riotous fun they became classics in spite of themselves).

I was thinking that of today's stars, isn't Julia Roberts in the Grable/Hayworth tradition? While I don't find her a particularly compelling screen presence, apparently a lot of other people do. Most of her movies seem to be big hits, but the ones I've seen have not stuck me as terribly good, and I have doubts as to their staying power.

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I was thinking that of today's stars, isn't Julia Roberts in the Grable/Hayworth tradition?

Yes, Julia Roberts, and Meg Ryan too. Although Ryan now wants to move away from the cutesy romantic comedy genre, but it's really too late.

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Some of us also remember Doris Day in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much and musicals like Pajama Game. In fact, I've seen more of Day's serious work than those war of the sexes films with Hudson.

With a star who had a long and varied career, like Day, name recognition often depends on what brand of nostalgia is current. The Day-Hudson comedies, for example, have been receiving attention recently because of the pastiche film “Down with Love” that came out a couple of years ago.

She was a delightful and talented comic actress who could make any mediocre movie fun to watch.

I always liked her, too. And a great singing voice, as Farrell Fan notes.

It seems like in the old studio system they very often threw together movies around a star, with no desire to make any kind of masterpiece.

Hmmm. I wouldn’t say “threw together.” Star vehicles were put together with quite a bit of care and attention, and many of them have survived better than the prestige pictures the studios were making to collect awards.

I was thinking that of today's stars, isn't Julia Roberts in the Grable/Hayworth tradition?

Roberts hasn’t made any movies immediately identifiable as deathless classics, but she’s had a career unique among contemporary women stars. The shelf life of a star actress tends to be much briefer than that of her male counterparts. She has shown a lot of staying power in an era none too hospitable to women, and in that respect her career is more impressive than Grable’s or Hayworth’s, IMO. She’s now approaching the dangerous age, which for a female film star is 40, so we’ll see.

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:off topic: dirac, it looks like Julia Roberts is very much aware that she is reaching the 'danger zone' and seems to be taking a very careful aproach to her career at the moment. For example, her current Broadway run in Three Days of Rain and her bowing out of the forthcoming Ocean's Thirteen show that she realizes she has to position herself differently. This has also coincided with her becoming a mother, but IMO it's more than merely reducing her work load.

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I don't think there's a single really great Danny Kaye movie (though "The Court Jester" seems to have achieved classic status); they're all just about watching him do his shtick.

With Kaye, it's the Robin Williams problem, I think -- what do you do with him?

We are wandering afield, as GWTW notes, but in this particular instance I think it's harmless. :off topic:

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I would agree with the other posters about Julia Roberts. She definitely falls into the "iconic star who hasn't made very many iconic movies" class. (In fact, I can only think of one -- Pretty Woman.)

To her credit, I think Roberts did try in the mid-90s to move away from the big hair/pretty smile cul-de-sac she found herself in (with movies like Mary Reilly.) Unfortunately for her, no one much wanted to see her in those movies.

Meg Ryan seems to be in jeopardy of falling into the Tyrone Power class -- she waited too long to move away from the cutie-pie image.

As for Rock Hudson, are The Magnificent Obsession and All That Heaven Allows considered Rock Hudson pictures or Douglas Sirk pictures?

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It seems like in the old studio system they very often threw together movies around a star, with no desire to make any kind of masterpiece.
Hmmm. I wouldn’t say “threw together.” Star vehicles were put together with quite a bit of care and attention, and many of them have survived better than the prestige pictures the studios were making to collect awards.
A friend once suggested that Liza Minnelli was actually more talented than Judy Garland -- Judy having so many vehicles tailored to highlight her particular strengths and conceal her weakenesses. Only the studio system (perhaps only MGM) had (or could assemble) such a breadth and depth of resources to maximize the star-making power of those vehicles.

This is, of course, not to say that Judy would never have been a huge star without the studio system--just that Liza may have been a bigger one with it.

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I haven't seen the "It's Always Fair Weather" DVD yet, but I understand the extras include a solo dance by Michael Kidd, which was cut from the picture, and a Kelly-Charisse duet, also cut. Sounds as if it's well worth checking out.

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Roberts hasn’t made any movies immediately identifiable as deathless classics, but she’s had a career unique among contemporary women stars. The shelf life of a star actress tends to be much briefer than that of her male counterparts. She has shown a lot of staying power in an era none too hospitable to women, and in that respect her career is more impressive than Grable’s or Hayworth’s, IMO. She’s now approaching the dangerous age, which for a female film star is 40, so we’ll see.

I don't know, I finally really thought she was impressive in 'Erin Brockovich', and the movie deserves credit even if it does nothing more than tell an important story well. That's the only one, though, and I was very surprised (only saw it recently.) I especially loathe things like 'My Best Friend's Wedding' and she also hasn't much of an ear--which her failed Irish accent in 'Michael Collins' proved.'

Found this old thread on 'the Best of Everything' while looking for that Astaire thread, which I'll find and link to in a minute. I thought Suzy Parker okay and when she falls out the fire escape it is truly a little mini-Psycho moment, if you saw it as a child as I did. Least interesting is Diane Baker, who never was, hard to understand how her weird small-town coldness ever got as many parts as it did. Joan Crawford hilarious in the part, when I used to do New York office-temp work, we used to call her type a 'personnel broad', the term having been first told to me by one who was herself one! according to her. Trash movie, I think better of this period kind of soaper were things with Kim Novak like 'Strangers When We Meet', with Kirk Douglas. I can never resist that dusky voice.

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I don't know, I finally really thought she was impressive in 'Erin Brockovich', and the movie deserves credit even if it does nothing more than tell an important story well. That's the only one, though, and I was very surprised (only saw it recently.) I especially loathe things like 'My Best Friend's Wedding' and she also hasn't much of an ear--which her failed Irish accent in 'Michael Collins' proved.'

‘Brockovich’ is pretty good, isn’t it? You know where it’s going, of course – it’s a variation on ‘Norma Rae’ even if the story is taken from life – but I like it. I don’t think anyone noticed, but she was good in ‘Closer,’ too.

Roberts hasn’t made many good movies, as noted, but I’m not sure that’s really her fault. As miliosr says, you do have to give her credit for trying things like ‘Mary Reilly’ (and lending her name to the Collins picture, which she helped by looking beautiful even if she was rather obviously not a young lady of the period and had no control over the accent). I agree that ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ is poor but again I think that’s more of a commentary on the current state of romantic comedy than anything else.

I’m not objective, though, because I’ve always liked her for herself, and I don’t much care that she hasn’t got the chops of say, Cate Blanchett.

As for Rock Hudson, are The Magnificent Obsession and All That Heaven Allows considered Rock Hudson pictures or Douglas Sirk pictures?

I think it depends. Nowadays we think more of Sirk first, but at the time they would have been vehicles for Wyman and Hudson, and don’t forget in that era the producer (Ross Hunter here; Albert Zugsmith for the Sirk pictures The Tarnished Angels and Written on the Wind) had as much say as what made it to the screen as the director, if not more. This isn’t to say that those films don’t bear the marks of Sirk’s individual style; they do, obviously. But he didn’t have the control over his movies that many directors possess today.

Thank you, papeeetepatrick, for excavating these old threads.

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I don't know, I finally really thought she was impressive in 'Erin Brockovich', and the movie deserves credit even if it does nothing more than tell an important story well. That's the only one, though, and I was very surprised (only saw it recently.) I especially loathe things like 'My Best Friend's Wedding' and she also hasn't much of an ear--which her failed Irish accent in 'Michael Collins' proved.'

I actually think "My Best Friend's Wedding" is one of her better films. Hogan is a good director. Although I don't think she's picked a true classic, yet Roberts' taste is projects is not that bad. She's worked with a fairly impressive string of directors, Altman, Soderbergh, Jordan, Allen among them.

I agree, though that I don't think Roberts will be remembered as an actress or for her films, but for her historical place as the most bankable female star since Mary Pickford.

Meg Ryan seems to be in jeopardy of falling into the Tyrone Power class -- she waited too long to move away from the cutie-pie image.

I think if you look over Ryan's credits historically, she's split her projects between comedies and dramas pretty evenly. Among her projects around the same time as "When Harry Met Sally" and the years after, were "D.O.A.," "The Presidio," "The Doors," "Flesh and Bone," "When a Man Loves a Woman," "Restoration," and "Courage Under Fire." I think she's underrated as an actress, but audiences don't seem to like her in anything other than comedies.

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[Julia Roberts is] now approaching the dangerous age, which for a female film star is 40, [ ... ]
That's kind of sad isn't it? It certainly makes the career choices of someone like Helen Mirren, who trained in theater and went back-and-forth between stage and screen, seem both self-preservatory and sensible.

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[Julia Roberts is] now approaching the dangerous age, which for a female film star is 40, [ ... ]
That's kind of sad isn't it? It certainly makes the career choices of someone like Helen Mirren, who trained in theater and went back-and-forth between stage and screen, seem both self-preservatory and sensible.

I don't think it's that much of a problem for a really major star as in past eras. There's always something for them to do. Shirley MacLaine 'made the transition' into mothers, etc., and many of the big names are still around as they go into their 50s or 60s. The main ones who seem to show signs of being eclipsed have been those who have had some substance problems or other personal trauma, or who lost interest. Ann-Margret has not been used well, but always works. Liz Taylor didn't continue for many reasons, probably including not wanting to do that kind of concentration. Catherine DeNeuve has never worked in the theater, and she is the ultimate example of aging well on the screen--much more so than MacLaine, who has become somewhat a caricature of herself, which Deneuve has not. Michelle Pfeiffer is 49 or 50 and shows no sign of literally slowing down, even if she went a couple of years without making a film. There are dozens more, help me remember them. Whether they really improve with age may be the more pertinent concern in this historic period. I think that the days when stars faded based on their beauty and glamour have pretty much passed. Any thoughts on that? this is pretty general and rough, I haven't thought it through that deeply. Just thought of Streisand. She can't get literally anything she most wants as she once could, but she can get a lot of it. Close and Streep and are still major actresses, Goldie still pops up sometimes.. etc., etc., I think anyway..

One thing that did interest me about 'My Best Friend's Wedding' was that Roberts already seemed an 'aging star' in it. The role was weird and it then felt strange when she 'went back' to 'romantic leading ladies'. However, I really wasn't paying all that much attention, after they did that shtick with 'I Say a Little Prayer for You'.

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I like My Best Friend's Wedding more than most of the posters on this thread but I will admit that it has some problems.

Problem # 1 is the muddled tone of the movie. The Roberts character was very unsympathetic at times (she is, after all, trying to steal another woman's fiance) but, since this was a Julia Roberts movie and audiences were paying to see her as a romantic lead, the movie never lets her become too unsympathetic. The result is a very muddled tone.

Problem # 2 is Dermot Mulroney as the male lead. You know a romantic comedy has a problem when the female lead (Roberts) has more romantic chemistry with the gay supporting character (Rupert Everett) than she does with the ostensible straight male lead (Mulroney).

I actually think a more interesting movie would have had Roberts forced to choose between a boring -- but sexual -- relationship with Mulroney and a lively -- but platonic -- relationship with Everett. (Everett actually made a movie -- The Next Best Thing -- somewhat along these lines with Madonna.)

On another front, here's another name from the past who was big in her day but is virtually unknown today: Norma Shearer. Joan Crawford always complained that Shearer got the best parts when they were co-workers at M-G-M but Crawford ended up getting the better of Shearer in the long run. Crawford is talked about to this day but Shearer is all but forgotten.

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That's kind of sad isn't it? It certainly makes the career choices of someone like Helen Mirren, who trained in theater and went back-and-forth between stage and screen, seem both self-preservatory and sensible.
Michelle Pfeiffer is 49 or 50 and shows no sign of literally slowing down, even if she went a couple of years without making a film. There are dozens more, help me remember them. Whether they really improve with age may be the more pertinent concern in this historic period. I think that the days when stars faded based on their beauty and glamour have pretty much passed. Any thoughts on that? this is pretty general and rough, I haven't thought it through that deeply.

Well, things are better than they used to be, in that the danger age for female stars is now 40 or so instead of 35 or so, as it was in the ‘golden era.’ It doesn’t really have that much to do with individual career choices; even if Meg Ryan’s work in drama, for example, had been more warmly received than it was, it wouldn’t necessarily have prolonged her stay at the top. Helen Mirren is over sixty – she’s passed through the stage where female stars have to do TV to stay visible (Close, Holly Hunter, Mirren herself) and entering Driving Miss Daisy/The Queen territory, where sometimes things actually start happening, as they did for Judi Dench.

This doesn’t mean that such women get no work at all; it means that their choices diminish much faster than those of their male counterparts – Streep now plays mainly big supporting roles, whereas for many years her male coevals, such as Pacino and De Niro, despite career ups and downs, continued to play major roles opposite much younger women. ( I remember Streep remarking in an interview a few years ago that the scripts sent to her usually involved playing witches.)

One thing that did interest me about 'My Best Friend's Wedding' was that Roberts already seemed an 'aging star' in it.
Problem # 1 is the muddled tone of the movie. The Roberts character was very unsympathetic at times (she is, after all, trying to steal another woman's fiance) but, since this was a Julia Roberts movie and audiences were paying to see her as a romantic lead, the movie never lets her become too unsympathetic. The result is a very muddled tone
.

You’re both right – she’s pitted against Cameron Diaz, a genuine threat and pretender to the throne, and the slight age difference between them is emphasized – Roberts is only about five years older, I think, but it’s made to feel like a lot more than that, as if they’re different generations.

Problem # 2 is Dermot Mulroney as the male lead. You know a romantic comedy has a problem when the female lead (Roberts) has more romantic chemistry with the gay supporting character (Rupert Everett) than she does with the ostensible straight male lead (Mulroney
).

Mulroney was certainly an unworthy bone of contention. I also had trouble believing in him as a writer – he could hardly string two sentences together.

On another front, here's another name from the past who was big in her day but is virtually unknown today: Norma Shearer. Joan Crawford always complained that Shearer got the best parts when they were co-workers at M-G-M but Crawford ended up getting the better of Shearer in the long run. Crawford is talked about to this day but Shearer is all but forgotten.

The difference, I think, is that Shearer made very few classic films – that is, movies still well known to non-buffs – and Crawford made a few, not to mention the Mommie Dearest book and movie, which kept her in posthumous public view. As you say, though, Shearer was indeed a huge, huge star. Being married to Irving Thalberg helped, of course, but she would have made it anyway. (In fact, she had to fight with Thalberg for one of her biggest roles, in ‘The Divorcee’; her loving hubby didn’t think she was hot enough for the part, and Shearer had George Hurrell take some sexy shots to convince him.)

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When M-G-M released Joan Crawford in the early 1940s and she moved over to Warner Brothers, most of Hollywood -- including Joan Crawford herself -- viewed the move as a real comedown. But it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to Joan Crawford because the films she made at Warner Brothers from the mid-to-late 1940s are the films (along with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Women) for which she is best remembered today.

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When M-G-M released Joan Crawford in the early 1940s and she moved over to Warner Brothers, most of Hollywood -- including Joan Crawford herself -- viewed the move as a real comedown. But it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to Joan Crawford because the films she made at Warner Brothers from the mid-to-late 1940s are the films (along with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Women) for which she is best remembered today.

That's true. It is interesting that, for different reasons, the reigning queens of MGM in the 30s -- Garbo, Shearer, and Crawford -- were gone from the studio by the early 40s.

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Even though Crawford trailed behind Garbo and Shearer while all three were at M-G-M, she actually ended up being the most adaptable of the three to changing tastes and trends:

Late 1920s-early 1940s: Able to make the transition from silents to "talkies" and coasts along for quite some time on her "shopgirl" pictures.

Mid-1940s-mid 1950s: Plunges head long into film noir/suspense pictures, which sustain her for another decade.

Early 1960s-late 1960s: Makes Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? with Bette Davis and rides the 'Glamorous Ladies of the Silver Screen Reduced to Demented Hags Carrying Axes' genre for the rest of the decade.

Speaking of Garbo, has anyone ever seen Queen Christina? I've never seen it but it looks quite expressive in photos and I am wondering if it is worth viewing.

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