miliosr

Classic Hollywood/Hollywood's Golden Age

274 posts in this topic

By the way, TV's series "Mad Men" has a lot in common with "The Best of Everything" in that it deals with pre-feminist office politics of the late fifties and early sixties. This was an era when female executives had to wear hats in the office so that they wouldn't be mistaken for secretaries. The term "sexual harassment" hadn't been invented yet.

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Everyone thinks she looks great for 90.
She had a considerable head start at looking great -- at every age.

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And Fontaine hasn’t exactly had what you call a rough life, which is also good for maintaining your looks. Years ago I read her autobiography, “No Bed of Roses,” and the title would have been accurate if you left out the “No.”

Thanks for that link, FauxPas. Olivia had her questionnaire awhile back, so they’re even.

Very good point about "Mad Men," too. It does have elements of “The Best of Everything Meets The Sopranos.” (Although that makes the show sound more interesting than it generally is for this viewer. I’m trying to stay with it but it’s testing my patience.)

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As FauxPas notes, The Best of Everything is clever in the way it uses fashion to denote the hierarchy among the female employees at Fabian Publishing. As the Hope Lange character Caroline rises in the company, her wardrobe becomes more sophisticated -- hats, pearls, etc. In fact, even if you watch the movie with the sound off and know nothing about the characters, counting the strands of pearls around the necks of the female employees will give you a great understanding of who's who in the company firmament.

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Anita Page 'retired gracefully', for those for whom that matters (it doesn't as such to me, they all lived their own lives as they needed to or wanted to. Their vanity about their looks is their business, and that's what they wanted. Being a recluse is all right. Most of these Golden Age stars were characters, I don't see that it's realistic to be 'normal' or 'graceful' about the old age if you weren't in the young age, and plenty weren't either.) In fact, Page did that back in the 30s and only died a few months ago at 98 or 99, always an honoured personality throughout her later years, being the last remaining person, or 'famous person', to attend the first academy awards. She was a charmer in her heyday, and 'You Were Meant for Me was written for her. We neglected to write her up. I don't see anything ungraceful about Bette Davis's senior moment years, I'm glad she did all the pulp she wanted to, her presence was always welcome, even as 'Widow Fortune' in the miniseries 'Dark Secret of Harvest Home', based on the Thomas Tryon novel.

Illnesses and being bedridden are bound to cause depression, and wouldn't be cause for 'doing old age poorly', and this is the same for famous people as those who aren't. For 'retiring gracefully', Deborah Kerr and Lillian Gish did it the best I can think of.

Edited to add: And if 'retiring gracefully' does not only apply to those who become at least octogenarians, Audrey Hepburn certainly did so as gracefully as possible, working in Somalia for the UN only months before her death--and not trying to control all her publicity with contracts as are some of the current 'good works' types, which is perfectly odious.

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I watched the premiere episodes of The City on MTV on Monday night and I was struck by how much it was an updated, 21st century version of the "three girls in the city" genre which gave us The Best of Everything.

The City, of course, is a spinoff of the popular MTV reality series The Hills and follows supporting "character" Whitney as she moves to New York from Los Angeles. The City also features socialite Olivia Palermo (she of Socialite Rank and Tinsley Mortimer feud fame) and Whitney's childhood friend Erin. If I had to compare the young women The City to the young women in The Best of Everything, here's how they would compare:

Whitney = Caroline (Hope Lange)

Olivia = Gregg (Suzy Parker)

Erin = April (Diane Baker)

There's no Fabian Publishing but Whitney and Olivia "work" at Diane von Furstenberg's beautiful new headquarters in Chelsea. (The interior stairs scare me!)

No redeeming artistic, intellectual or social qualities to this at all but a lot of fun to watch!!!

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The 'the three girls in the city' story (I'd include Sex and the City, too, with its four leads) was an evergreen for much of the twentieth century and I expect it to pop up in one form or another well into this one, too. Haven't seen 'The City,' yet.

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ITA dirac that the "three girls in the city" genre is an exceedingly durable one. And, trust me when I say that your life isn't any the worse off for having missed The City!

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One of the towering pillars of the "three girls in the city" genre is Jacqueline Susann's "The Valley of the Dolls" of which I can proudly say I have read both the book and own the camp classic movie on VHS.

BTW: the late Rona Jaffe has an audio track commentary on the DVD of "The Best of Everything". She was working at a publishing house not unlike Fabian and living with her parents in Brooklyn at the time she wrote the book. She was introduced to a big shot producer who suggested she write a novel similar to "Kitty Foyle". She read the book and felt it was ridiculous and unrealistic. So she did her version of what life was like for working girls in the city.

Her book is not as melodramatic or campy as the movie with Hope Lange et al. Some of the "laugh out loud" moments in the script are the product of the screenwriters not Jaffe.

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Thanks, FauxPas. I'll have to check out the DVD. Certainly no novelist is responsible for what the movies do to her book. :) I'll have to read it one of these days.

'Valley of the Dolls,' - how could we forget?

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The audio commentary for The Best of Everything is quite good. Both Rona Jaffe and the film historian (sorry -- can't remember her name) who participates have very interesting things to say about the genesis of the book, the making of the film and the cast members.

Sadly, the commentary for Valley of the Dolls isn't up to the same standard. Barbara Parkins (who played Anne Welles) is not especially illuminating -- either her memories have dimmed after 40 years or she was being deliberately circumspect about the people involved in the making of the film. Her co-commentator -- E! gossip columnist Ted Casablanca (named after a character in the film!) -- is even worse. Unfortunately, Patty Duke either couldn't or wouldn't (probably the latter) participate. Alas, with the Valley of the Dolls commentary, you'll have to plant your own tree and make it grow! :)

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(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.)

I was leafing through a book of Hurrell's photos this past weekend and I know which photos you are referring to. The photos are striking . . . without being iconic. Or, at least, iconic in the way Hurrell's photos of Joan Crawford from the same period are iconic.

I understand that Shearer didn't make a lot of great films but, then, neither did Louise Brooks. And yet, Brooks remains an icon to this day even though her career evaporated at the start of the talkie period. Fortune's fickle finger . . .

Shearer turned down a Big One, Mrs. Miniver, that might have rejuvenated her career, choosing a couple of weak comedies instead.

Her Wikipedia entry also states she turned down Now, Voyager and the Miriam Hopkins role in Old Acquaintance.

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I understand that Shearer didn't make a lot of great films but, then, neither did Louise Brooks. And yet, Brooks remains an icon to this day even though her career evaporated at the start of the talkie period. Fortune's fickle finger . . .

Brooks made a magical impression in one undisputed classic, Pandora's Box. For her, it was enough - Brooks was never a big star at any time during her active career, strange to say when today she's a legend. Shearer was a superstar in her day without great beauty or talent whose vehicles haven't aged well. She made the most of what she had, though. Whereas a good time gal like Brooks gained immortality more or less by accident. Fortune, indeed.

Thanks for reviving this thread. :crying:

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Louise Brooks was like a interesting character in a novel who is available for subsequent interviews -- in her case with James Card, Richard Leacock and Kenneth Tynan. Hanging out with the Algonquin crowd in the twenties didn't hurt.

Apparently it was Henri Langois who brought her image back to life in an 1955 exhibition “Sixty Years of Cinema” where it was displayed prominently ("She embodies in herself all that the cinema rediscovered in its last years of silence: complete naturalness and complete simplicity."). It impressed Jean Luc Godard who based the look of Anna Karina’s character in "Vivre sa vie" on it.

Brooks worked with Wellman and Hawks ("Girl in Every Port") and was imported by Pabst into Germany, where there were few established stars, and appeared there in a film that gets a considerable space in books on Weimar film and culture, well before Berg's version of the Wedekind play.

I don't remember the quote exactly, but far as what she actually did as an actress, Lotte Eisner is sort of in perplexed agreement with dirac.

A perfect Brooks role:

Morel's Invention

Norma Shearer also seemed to be very natural and sympathetic subject for Edward Steichen's less hard-edged (than Hurrell's) style, a little more Ladies Home Journal than Vogue.

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I watched 'Pandora's Box' a few years ago. It's considered a classic, but I don't care for Louise Brooks's performance. It's so wholesome and innocent, more like Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles or some 'forest creature type' than Lulu. She seems totally unaware of what profession she's in. The period and Pabst's interest in her may have something to do with it, but others would have shown that hard edges always go along with this line of business--as Garbo does in 'Susan Lennox', and Dietrich a lot more so in 'The Blue Angel'. Maybe it's the look that's iconic, and I certainly agree it's a beautiful face, this in itself is very memorable. Interesting about the Anna Karina look, Quiggin, I can see that, although when she's playing a prostitute, you definitely don't get confused about it.

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I agree with you, Patrick, but I think that quality of innocence was what Pabst was looking for, even if in real life Brooks was already a swinger with a bottle problem. He saw something he could use. She's a delicious stray and Lulu in Pabst's version isn't an operator like Lola-Lola.

Thank you for that link, Quiggin. I must read that.

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I think that quality of innocence was what Pabst was looking for, even if in real life Brooks was already a swinger with a bottle problem.

Oh dear, that makes it all the more strange-seeming :wink: I never had read up on Brooks's life. 'Delicious stray' is good, very much the waif.

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Whereas a good time gal like Brooks gained immortality more or less by accident. Fortune, indeed.
Maybe it's the look that's iconic, and I certainly agree it's a beautiful face, this in itself is very memorable.

Brooks is "immortal" and "iconic". I have a co-worker who has the exact Louise Brooks bob and looks just like her. Not bad for someone whose heyday was over 80 years ago!

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Lots of women had the bob cut and the flapper look, but there's something uniquely arresting about Brooks on film that's made her an icon even with her very brief film career. In one of my favorite photos of Brooks, she's in boy's clothing and her unique charisma still shines through. Some people just have the "it" factor, and I think Louise Brooks was just one of them.

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Brooks looked great in that twenties bob - no other hairstyle looked quite so good on her. She was a wonderful camera subject and as Quiggin mentions she was taken up by writers and critics in her later years, thanks mainly to Pandora and Pabst and of course her own charm and wit. She was a marvelous interview and a good writer if not a demon for accuracy.

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I was reading Louise Brooks' Wikepedia page and there were some interesting tidbits in the bio:

1) She was a member of Denishawn from 1922-24 until Miss Ruth fired her, and

2) She self-published Fundamentals of Good Ballroom Dancing (!) in 1940.

Can anyone tell me how to change the title of this thread (which I created)? We have moved so far beyond The Best Of Everything that I would like to retitle this thread "Classic Hollywood" or "Hollywood's Golden Age" and put (Was: The Best Of Everything) in the sub-title.

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I just PM'd you, miliosr. Let me know if that doesn't work. I was a bad moderator and allowed us to wander too far off the reservation, sorry.

Yes, Brooks was in Denishawn as a teenager. She wasn't a favorite of Miss Ruth's but Ted Shawn liked her and cast her. Apparently St. Denis decided, perhaps not entirely fairly, that Louise was too fond of a good time. Of course, Brooks was just a kid. The handbook was written after Brooks had to leave Hollywood for want of work and returned home to Kansas, where she opened a short-lived dance studio. She had also been part of a nightclub dance duo for awhile in addition to her time as a showgirl post-Denishawn, so she had a fair amount of dance experience and thought of herself as a dancer at least as much she considered herself an actor.

Norma Shearer also seemed to be very natural and sympathetic subject for Edward Steichen's less hard-edged (than Hurrell's) style, a little more Ladies Home Journal than Vogue.

Shearer at her peak specialized in naughty women of the world, hardly the Ladies' Home type. :)

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