miliosr

Classic Hollywood/Hollywood's Golden Age

274 posts in this topic

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.

Oh, this is merely one of the greatest films ever made--moments with John Gilbert unlike anything I've ever experienced on film. Is it worth viewing? Well, one oughtn't to go through life without viewing it. As well as 'Grand Hotel' and 'Anna Christie' and 'Camille.' I think she's the greatest actress in Hollywood history, in the sense that she's never bad no matter how poor the material; I don't think I can say that about another star. In any case, this film is not perfect in the 'All About Eve' sense of impeccable, no-hair-out-of-place perfection, but then what American film is? There are FACES in this film: Unfortunately for Norma Desmond (who had one) they sometimes continued in the talkies.

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There are indeed wonderful faces in this film. It's when they start moving, takling, and interacting that I begin to have problems. The big asset in this film is Mamoulian and his cinematographer. There are hypnotizingly beautiful shots in silver tone and dark grey. You might try, as I did, turning off the sound and enjoying it as a silent movie.

Garbo must be an acquired taste. I know that this is widely considered to be one of her best performances.

For contrast you might try the full-color, shot-on-location film The Abdication, with Liv Ullman and Peter Finch. It carries the story forward to cover Christina's reception in Rome, and her tortured, drawn-out relationship with a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

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miliosr, by all means you should see “Queen Christina.” You won’t be sorry. It wouldn’t necessarily be much to write home about without Garbo, but she is extraordinary and the rest of the movie is pretty good, although if you're looking for accurate history this isn't your film. Ben Hecht, S.N. Behrman, and Garbo’s good friend Salka Viertel, Peter’s mom, had a hand in the screenplay, not all of them credited, and it contains two great lines – Garbo announcing, “I shall die a bachelor,” and later on, before the magical bedroom love scene with John Gilbert, telling him, “I am memorizing this room.” (Gilbert, BTW, is not bad, although he’s not in the same league with his ex.)

.Although the love story at the center of the plot is the height of conventionality, the lesbian subtext is strikingly clear, with Garbo striding around in trousers and boots – she’s never looked happier -- and looking over her ladies in waiting with a speculative eye.

It would be more accurate to describe William Daniels as “Garbo’s cinematographer” – he was her favorite and shot many of her best films, along with many other important MGM movies of the era. (He was closely identified with one director, Erich von Stroheim.) Haven't seen the Ullmann picture - it sounds interesting.

It's true, offhand I can't think of a bad Garbo performance. There were times when she was not ideally cast or off form.

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It's true, offhand I can't think of a bad Garbo performance. There were times when she was not ideally cast or off form.

I think that's exactly right, and of course, she didn't have the range of Katharine Hepburn that would extend to something like 'Long Day's Journey Into Night.' (the reverse, of course, is true. Garbo, though tough, does not seem bossy; what could have bombed more fully than Katharine Hepburn as 'Camille'???). But Ms. Hepburn I have seen a number of times and thought she was just as bad as her material, I like her before she got so pushy: She's exquisite in 'Morning Glory' and 'Alice Adams.'

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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.

I think at least some of that is due to the fact that so many of Shearer's films were silent or very early talkie, and so relatively unlikely to be screened casually today. Unlike Crawford or Davis, Shearer really retired from films by 1940.

Generally, I agree that she's a less memorable on-screen presence than either Crawford or Davis, though.

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Thanks for the advice about Queen Christina (and The Abdication -- I'd never heard of that until bart mentioned it.)

Garbo and Shearer were both fairly clever in realizing that the times (the 1940s) wouldn't be particularly hospitable to them and so it was better to go out on their own terms rather than the industry's. In Garbo's case, leaving only added to her legend. Alas, the same can't be said for Shearer.

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Well, both of them had been stars for a long time and were reaching That Certain Age. However, they might have continued on for a bit longer if circumstances had been different. Shearer turned down a Big One, Mrs. Miniver, that might have rejuvenated her career, choosing a couple of weak comedies instead. Garbo was by that time more popular overseas than she was in the U.S. She made up in prestige value what she didn’t generate in homegrown box office, but once the war had cut off the European market she was no longer affordable. She may in fact have intended her retirement to be only temporary, but as it turned out it was permanent.

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I think at least some of that is due to the fact that so many of Shearer's films were silent or very early talkie, and so relatively unlikely to be screened casually today. Unlike Crawford or Davis, Shearer really retired from films by 1940.

That's true. (Of course, it's also true of Garbo, if you think about it - by the middle-late thirties both Shearer and Garbo were appearing only every other year or so, far less frequently than other stars. But Garbo, too, was a much stronger personality and just, well, better.)

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Getting back to Julia Roberts for a moment, USA Today has a small feature in today's Entertainment section in which 11 of her contemporaries (mostly fellow actors) relate their favorite Julia Roberts "moment".

8 of the 11 respondents pick a moment from one of her films -- 3 for Pretty Woman and 1 each for Ocean's Twelve, Notting Hill, My Best Friend's Wedding, Steel Magnolias and Runaway Bride. Some telling film choices as they pretty much embody the Julia Roberts "canon". (I would replace Ocean's Twelve with Erin Brokovitch, though.)

Interestingly, Roberts herself is quoted in the article as saying she only plans to work, "from time to time."

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Getting back to Julia Roberts for a moment, USA Today has a small feature in today's Entertainment section in which 11 of her contemporaries (mostly fellow actors) relate their favorite Julia Roberts "moment".

8 of the 11 respondents pick a moment from one of her films -- 3 for Pretty Woman and 1 each for Ocean's Twelve, Notting Hill, My Best Friend's Wedding, Steel Magnolias and Runaway Bride. Some telling film choices as they pretty much embody the Julia Roberts "canon". (I would replace Ocean's Twelve with Erin Brokovitch, though.)

Interestingly, Roberts herself is quoted in the article as saying she only plans to work, "from time to time."

Well, she has three very young children, a big job even with ample professional help, and also she’s not getting first pick of the best scripts any more – it happens to everyone, even Julia. (She does have a new picture coming out, Charlie Wilson’s War, but it sounds as if it’s chiefly a vehicle for Tom Hanks.)

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I ought to add, since we've got 'The Best of Everything' up, that I always found Hope Lange lovely from when I first saw her among all the beautiful other starlets in 'Peyton Place'--Diane Varsi, Terry Moore, Barry Coe, David Nelson, Russ Tamblyn (there really were male starlets back then too)--all the way to 'Blue Velvet', where her presence seemed both out-of-place amidst all the Lynchian nightmare and yet reassuring at the same time. Love 'Peyton Place' anyway--one of Lana Turner's best performances, and wonderful theme music, especially when Russ and Diane are above the town looking down at the harbour--reminds me of Sawgatuck River at Westport, Connecticut; Lee Phillips was good, too, but his voice probably aborted his career, but also Mildred Dunnock and Arthur Kennedy. Hope Lange was also beautiful in 'Bus Stop', that irresistible Monroe/Don Murray movie. I suppose Diane Baker was actually good for 'Best of Everything' too, and I wonder if she was a type of the period, perhaps following up on Lee Remick, but certainly without the depth that Remick could have just with her face alone, perhaps more like other lesser lights like Diane McBain and Carol Lynley.

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there really were male starlets back then too

There are male starlets today too. Leonardo Di Caprio was a starlet before he became a star. Many of the young TV actors are starlets - I'm showing my age by not being able to think of one off the top of head, but I'm thinking about shows like 'The OC', 'Prison Break', etc. In my day, they would have been Jason Priestley (90210) and Bailey Chase (Party of Five).

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there really were male starlets back then too

There are male starlets today too. Leonardo Di Caprio was a starlet before he became a star. Many of the young TV actors are starlets - I'm showing my age by not being able to think of one off the top of head, but I'm thinking about shows like 'The OC', 'Prison Break', etc. In my day, they would have been Jason Priestley (90210) and Bailey Chase (Party of Five).

Technically very true, GWTW, but even in the example you give, there is often a promise that an actor will truly emerge. In the 50s, those ingenues really could not make a transition into adult actorhood most of the time. The most extreme and tragic example was Sandra Dee, who was surely the biggest star/starlet to then be plummeted to oblivion that there ever was. There was a year in which she was the #1 box office star, although it was in her very earliest roles--'Until They Sail', 'A Summer Place', 'Imitation of Life'--before she met Bobby Darin, that she was pure magic. Ann-Margret is one of the few exceptions to really become a big star and serious actress from that period, but she was slightly later and also 4 or 5 years older than Dee. I'm sure there are some other exceptions, but who would know who David Nelson was without Rick Nelson, and who has ever followed Barry Coe's career progress?

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GWTW, welcome back to the forum and it’s good to hear from you, but I must disagree, respectfully, about DiCaprio. Before ‘Titanic’ put him over the top, he was a well respected young actor in mostly independent pictures – ‘The Basketball Diaries,’ ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,’ etc. He even played Rimbaud. Not exactly Chris O’Donnell territory. You’re quite right about Jason Priestley, of course. Ashton Kutcher springs to mind. Most of them don't go anywhere once the bloom is off. There may be a successful one I can't think of offhand.

Hope Lange was also beautiful in 'Bus Stop',

She was excellent. And hers is really the crucial role when you think about it.

Sandra Dee, who was surely the biggest star/starlet to then be plummeted to oblivion that there ever was. There was a year in which she was the #1 box office star

That’s true, people forget how big she was at one point. Sad story.

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Two more megastars from the past who are all-but-forgotten now (at least in the United States):

Ramon Navarro and Dolores del Rio (who were cousins!)

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I didn’t know they were cousins, miliosr.

I think the reputations of many stars associated primarily with silent films, which are not revived with the regularity of sound pictures, have faded with the years. There are exceptions – the great comedians (Chaplin, Lloyd, Keaton, sometimes Langdon), Lon Chaney, Lillian Gish – but that does seem to be the general rule. Del Rio was remarkably beautiful.

I’ve seen Novarro in Ben-Hur, Mata Hari, and The Student Prince with Norma Shearer – probably others but those are the ones that come to mind offhand. He was a very appealing personality. He came to a dreadful end at the hands of a couple of hustlers, the brothers Ferguson, as you may know.

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Navarro's life story would actually make for a great movie.

del Rio was indeed beautiful. I love the portrait Tina Modotti made of her in the mid-1920s.

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Reviving this old thread (which probably needs a new title) . . .

Van Johnson has died at the age of 92. He was a huge box-office draw during the 40s but very few of his films are screened today. Probably the ones seen the most are the ones in which he wasn't top-billed -- Brigadoon (w/ Gene Kelly) and The Caine Mutiny (w/ Humphrey Bogart).

His obituary was interesting (and surprisingly long.) He is quoted as saying (at age 80) that, "maybe Garbo and Crawford and Marlene [Dietrich]did it right by bowing out before they became relics." Also, the obituary is interesting for what it doesn't say about him as much as for what it does. Ah well, he was a gentleman of a certain era and I suppose I had best leave that alone.

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Reviving this old thread (which probably needs a new title) . . .

Van Johnson has died at the age of 92. He was a huge box-office draw during the 40s but very few of his films are screened today. Probably the ones seen the most are the ones in which he wasn't top-billed -- Brigadoon (w/ Gene Kelly) and The Caine Mutiny (w/ Humphrey Bogart).

His obituary was interesting (and surprisingly long.) He is quoted as saying (at age 80) that, "maybe Garbo and Crawford and Marlene [Dietrich]did it right by bowing out before they became relics."

He was a huge success during the war years but then all the big male stars came back and Johnson was eclipsed rapidly, as the NYT obit noted. I wish Crawford and Dietrich had bowed out before they became relics, but they didn't, alas. But aging gracefully is a dicier process for women.

Also, the obituary is interesting for what it doesn't say about him as much as for what it does. Ah well, he was a gentleman of a certain era and I suppose I had best leave that alone.

Yes, I was a little surprised the obit was not more candid.

This thread went off the reservation a long time ago. It's past saving. :bow:

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His obituary was interesting (and surprisingly long.) He is quoted as saying (at age 80) that, "maybe Garbo and Crawford and Marlene [Dietrich]did it right by bowing out before they became relics."
He was a huge success during the war years but then all the big male stars came back and Johnson was eclipsed rapidly, as the NYT obit noted. I wish Crawford and Dietrich had bowed out before they became relics, but they didn't, alas. But aging gracefully is a dicier process for women.

I think Marlene was a splendid relic, I'm glad she kept going--just what would 'Touch of Evil' be without her? Not to mention 'Rancho Notorious' and working with Burt Bacharach and doing big Broadway solo shows. Had a fantastic sense of humour. We all have our personal affections, I wish Angela Lansbury had bowed out 10 years ago. But I do think the remark was curious, because Garbo is the only one he's really accurate about, and her bowing out is at least as annoying as it was admirable; she just didn't want to do it anymore. And it only applies to a certain kind of actor, one who is associated a bit more with 'screen presence' than acting. Nobody ever says that about Vanessa Redgrave or Catherine Deneuve, because they haven't become relics and their roles are creative, grow in their maturity--and Redgrave is plenty old enough for it to apply by now. But Crawford was a gross relic for my taste (I wonder how he imagined that 'she'd bowed out', because she surely did not; amazing to think of the pretty woman of the early 30s and the hard look in such things as 'I Saw What You Did') and there might be those who could have lived with a few less aged Kate Hepburn roles (I know I could have lived without 'On Golden Pond'), even though she did continue to do great acting work as a very old woman, so was only sometimes 'too much relic'. I just said this because dirac said that about the women, but I actually think there are plenty of men who needed to 'bow out' too.

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QUOTE

Also, the obituary is interesting for what it doesn't say about him as much as for what it does. Ah well, he was a gentleman of a certain era and I suppose I had best leave that alone.

Yes, I was a little surprised the obit was not more candid.

That's interesting because I knew nothing about the life of Van Johnson and thought the obit included quite a lot of unpleasant family background.

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I think the point Johnson was trying to make about Garbo, Crawford and Dietrich was this: Once they made the decison to stop, they were ruthless about it. Crawford and Dietrich, in particular, became virtual recluses toward the end because they didn't want to undermine memories of how they looked at their peak with paparazzi photos of how they looked in old age. In that way, they preserved that sense of mystery which surrounds the very greatest of movie stars.

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I think the point Johnson was trying to make about Garbo, Crawford and Dietrich was this: Once they made the decison to stop, they were ruthless about it. Crawford and Dietrich, in particular, became virtual recluses toward the end because they didn't want to undermine memories of how they looked at their peak with paparazzi photos of how they looked in old age. In that way, they preserved that sense of mystery which surrounds the very greatest of movie stars.

I take your point, miliosr, but that was actually what I meant by the term ‘relics,’ although your interpretation of the word is likely closer to Johnson’s. The fact that Crawford and Dietrich shut themselves away from the world because they didn’t want people to see them grown old is a very sad one, it seems to me. I guess you could say they preserved a sense of mystery, but I would rather have seen them leading normal lives in retirement at peace with the inevitability of advancing years and deriving what benefits they could from it. I remember reading an article about Dietrich in her last years and it was beyond depressing. (Garbo seems to have been happier in her non-working years.)

That's interesting because I knew nothing about the life of Van Johnson and thought the obit included quite a lot of unpleasant family background.

We were referring rather coyly to Johnson's sex life, GWTW. It has been noted (in print, I should say, by several biographers) that he was gay. There are always gay rumors floating around about any number of male stars, true, but in Johnson’s case they seem to have been well founded.

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Probably the model for what you're talking about dirac is someone like Olivia de Havilland who eased gracefully into retirement (unlike, say, her friend Bette Davis) without becoming a recluse like Garbo, Crawford or Dietrich. de Havilland recently accepted a National Medal of Arts at the White House and received a big standing ovation. So, it can be done!

(Still don't know if she and her sister Joan Fontaine are speaking to each other again at ages 92 and 91, though!) :(

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Probably the model for what you're talking about dirac is someone like Olivia de Havilland who eased gracefully into retirement (unlike, say, her friend Bette Davis) without becoming a recluse like Garbo, Crawford or Dietrich. de Havilland recently accepted a National Medal of Arts at the White House and received a big standing ovation. So, it can be done!

(Still don't know if she and her sister Joan Fontaine are speaking to each other again at ages 92 and 91, though!) :(

Yes, that's it exactly, miliosr.

I seem to remember reading fairly recently that Joan and she are still on the outs. :)

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