miliosr

Classic Hollywood/Hollywood's Golden Age

274 posts in this topic

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

I think everybody knows more about Shearer than I do. I think I've seen her only in 'The Women' and doing the weird balcony scene with John Gilbert in 'Hollywood Revue of 1929'. Just saw she later did an R + J movie with Leslie Howard. Is 'Marie Antoinette' a must-see? I confess I am not sure I can get interested in Norma Shearer, unless somebody really plugs something. I also just saw she was with Gable in 'Strange Interlude'.

Excellent new thread title, dirac. Who knew Diane Baker movies could be expanded into a Universal? I hope miliosr likes it. I did think there was a lot of cinematic beauty in 'Pandora's Box', but I wouldn't watch it again. That early Pabst/Garbo 'Joyless Street' is also interesting but maybe not great, mainly because it's the one thing I remember seeing Garbo in before she takes on a 'goddess persona'.

Share this post


Link to post
Excellent new thread title, dirac. I hope miliosr likes it.

I hope so too . . . since I'm the one who thought of it and changed it! :)

Share this post


Link to post

I've enjoyed going back and reading through this old thread. Having come to movies late in life, I always feel I've got a lot of catching up to do. The talk about some of a the big stars who have faded from memory made me think of one who's a particular favorite of mine--Irene Dunne. I don't know anything about her career or personal life, but she certainly made some classic movies, was remarkably versatile, and for me is always a gigantic pleasure to watch. Maybe I'm wrong about this--projecting my own movie ignorance--but I have the idea that for most people nowadays her name rings a distant bell and that's all. I wonder if she isn't one of the icons because she didn't make her career off her looks (though a beautiful woman) or playing sexual teases (though she does that to delightful comic effect in "The Awful Truth").

Share this post


Link to post

I like Irene Dunne too, although she was not especially glamorous (although, I agree, beautiful.) Wonderful in the first 'Showboat' with Alan Jones and with Charles Boyer in 'Love Affair' (much better than the Kerr/Grant remake, because the material seemed very dated by 'An Affair to Remember' in the late 50s). Personal life was very proper, as I recall, I think she was very religious and civic-minded.

Share this post


Link to post

I like her too, Anthony_NYC. (My only tiny cavil would be that she has a Jeanette MacDonald tendency to show too many teeth.) Dunne could do a lot of things very well and although I don't know much about her either from what I understand she was a charming and very professional person. She had bad luck in that a number of her vehicles (Love Affair, Show Boat, Back Street, Anna and the King of Siam, Magnificent Obsession are the ones that spring to mind) were remade later and hers dropped from circulation. The Awful Truth is one of those great comedies that make me laugh every time I see it. I also like Joy of Living and I'll put in a plug for a lovely movie called Penny Serenade. It's a weepie but it's so well done you overlook the sentimentality and Dunne and Cary Grant are awfully good.

Share this post


Link to post

Irene Dunne was also fabulous in Roberta. She was supposed to be cast in Follow the Fleet but Harriet Hilliard (Nelson) ended up doing it. I can't help but feel that Dunne would have been much better.

Share this post


Link to post
Irene Dunne was also fabulous in Roberta. She was supposed to be cast in Follow the Fleet but Harriet Hilliard (Nelson) ended up doing it. I can't help but feel that Dunne would have been much better.

Thanks for reminding me, ballet_n00b. I think you're right, she would have been much better (not that Hilliard set a very high bar). In those two movies Fred and Ginger are really functioning as the second leads.

Share this post


Link to post

Part of the fun of "The Awful Truth" was Leo McCarey's directing -- and that he let the actors improvise scenes of the film -- though I'm never certain which ones. He also directed "Duck Soup." LaClava ("She Married Her Boss") also did some interesting work.

I'm curious as to when the Classic/Golden Age begins and when it ends. "Morocco" to "Casablanca" -- or through "Cleopatra"?

Share this post


Link to post
I'm curious as to when the Classic/Golden Age begins and when it ends. "Morocco" to "Casablanca" -- or through "Cleopatra"?

Yes, yes, I don't know, but can't we include silents, after all, we had to discuss Pandora's Box on the Diane Baker Thread, so surely we can stretch it a little and talk about Theda Bara and Bobby Harron as well as 'All About Eve', which is definitely after 'Casablanca', even if Elizabeth Taylor may have made some non-Golden-Age product. :)

Share this post


Link to post

papeetepatrick:

Yes, yes, I don't know, but can't we include silents...

A Golden Age without frontiers then ...

Share this post


Link to post
I'm curious as to when the Classic/Golden Age begins and when it ends. "Morocco" to "Casablanca" -- or through "Cleopatra"?

When I changed the thread title, I was thinking of the "Golden Age" in expansive terms -- from the dawn of moviemaking (early, early silents) to the final, twin collapses of the studio system and the Hayes Code in the 1960s. So, roughly, from the dawn of the 20th century to Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf? w/ Burton and Taylor.

Share this post


Link to post

I think that Quiggin's Golden Age goal lines are the standard ones, which I would be inclined to agree with, but it's your topic title, miliosr, and I'm flexible. :)

Patrick, I'm not sure how dated the material of Love Affair/An Affair to Remember/Love Affair was in 1957. Audiences didn't seem to think so, anyway. It was a big hit for Grant at a time when he sorely needed one and thanks in part to Nora Ephron the film is regularly revived today. The earlier version is better IMO but the second one is still pretty good.

Share this post


Link to post
Patrick, I'm not sure how dated the material of Love Affair/An Affair to Remember/Love Affair was in 1957. Audiences didn't seem to think so, anyway. It was a big hit for Grant at a time when he sorely needed one and thanks in part to Nora Ephron the film is regularly revived today. The earlier version is better IMO but the second one is still pretty good.

Yes, the second one is pretty good, but there was something a little too genteel about the ending and unlikely circumstances that made more sense in the first one when I finally watched it (about 2 years ago, I'd never heard of it, someone told me.) By then, I thought it was the professionalism of Kerr and Grant (he was esp. good in this, I thought, better than usual, I thought) that carried it. I especially like the New York locations in 'Love Affair', though. This may have come up somewhere in a discussion of 'Imitation of Life', in the ways that that was 'updated' by Sirk into a film that is much more iconic than the original, although several of the people I was discussing it with thought the original with Claudette Colbert, which is more faithful (I believe, I've never read it) to the Fanny Hurst original, was better because of its 'realism', various other reasons were given. I don't think either version constitutes a great movie, but the Sirk is cinematically much more interesting and I can see why it has overshadowed the early 30s one.

Speaking of Grant, I recently read that 'The Howards of Virginia' was Cary Grant's worst movie, but I thought he, at least, was more effective in this macho sort of role than I would have expected. I watched it because I had recently become familiar with Martha Scott and wrote about her on the 'Stage to Screen' thread. Never had even heard of her till a year ago, and she did have a major stage career, although only a short movie career. I also saw 'Hi Diddle Diddle', and in all these 3 early films we see her in a wedding dress--don't know if that was a coincidence, but although very lovely, it was her 'Our Town' appearance that was the only thing that would be really important film-wise. I liked 'Hi Diddle Diddle', although I know little about screwball comedy, and some of it was plain silly, but has one of those amazing cast combos: Scott, Dennis O'Keefe, Pola Negri, Adolph Menjou, Billie Burke, and June Havoc (who is perfect as this madcap naughty girl lounge singer.) I imagine it was a flop, but that may be just because I never heard of it. As a film, I didn't care much for 'Howards of Virginia', it was all right as a curio.

Share this post


Link to post
I think that Quiggin's Golden Age goal lines are the standard ones, which I would be inclined to agree with, but it's your topic title, miliosr, and I'm flexible. :)

Well, in the spirit of the original Best Of Everything thread, which moved backward and forward across many different eras, I would like to keep this thread as freewheeling as possible so as not to (a) squelch discussion, and (b) create a proliferation of generalized Hollywood threads by decade. :)

Share this post


Link to post

Sounds good. We've already wheeled quite freely already. :)

Share this post


Link to post
This may have come up somewhere in a discussion of 'Imitation of Life', in the ways that that was 'updated' by Sirk into a film that is much more iconic than the original, although several of the people I was discussing it with thought the original with Claudette Colbert, which is more faithful (I believe, I've never read it) to the Fanny Hurst original, was better because of its 'realism', various other reasons were given. I don't think either version constitutes a great movie, but the Sirk is cinematically much more interesting and I can see why it has overshadowed the early 30s one.

As far as Imitation of Life is concerned I think it's six of one, half a dozen of the other. I liked the earlier version better because I think it's better as a whole, especially the acting, but it's just one person's taste. The second version is a product of the declining years of the Golden Age and shows it.

Share this post


Link to post

I think most film people think of the Golden Age of Hollywood as mirroring the rise and fall of the studio system, so usually starting in the 20s and ending in the late 50s or early 60s. Not a big deal for discussion purposes but I think it's a pretty common film convention.

This may have come up somewhere in a discussion of 'Imitation of Life', in the ways that that was 'updated' by Sirk into a film that is much more iconic than the original, although several of the people I was discussing it with thought the original with Claudette Colbert, which is more faithful (I believe, I've never read it) to the Fanny Hurst original, was better because of its 'realism', various other reasons were given. I don't think either version constitutes a great movie, but the Sirk is cinematically much more interesting and I can see why it has overshadowed the early 30s one.

I like the 30s version of "Imitation of Life" as a story. I think it makes much more sense as a story, and is much less patronizing to its African-American characters. Sirk's version is much more visually striking, and he has his own statement about what the story is about which I think diverges quite a bit from what Fanny Hurst has in mind. Sirk made a great movie, though; it's just very different.

Irene Dunne was very gifted, particularly as a comedienne, but she suffered from the same idea that Ginger Rogers did, that the way to be taken seriously as an actress was by abandoning musicals and comedies and concentrating on heavy dramas, many of which haven't aged particularly well. My personal favorite of hers is actually "Theodora Goes Wild."

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for posting, sidwich. I think in fact Dunne didn't get around to making that many comedies until the time of Theodora and she was already established as a musical and dramatic star. She made comedies into her forties. Some of her later movies are kind of meh as often happens in a star's fading years but I don't know that she was necessarily making the worst choices of those available to her.

I'd also have to disagree about Rogers' choice of career path. She was smart enough to see that her shelf life as a female musical star was likely to be short and she took care to start diversifying into straight comedy and drama. I would say that paid off for her. By the end of the Thirties she was one of RKO's major assets and within a couple of years she had won an Oscar, probably something few would have predicted for Ginger in her early days. "Stage Door" is a classic by any standard and she gave a lovely performance in another Gregory La Cava picture, "The Primrose Path," a drama that isn't frequently revived but holds up well. She made some bad decisions and her star started to fade after she hit thirty-five, but that was the cutoff age for most female stars back then and it might have happened in the normal course of things anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
I would say that paid off for her. By the end of the Thirties she was one of RKO's major assets and within a couple of years she had won an Oscar, probably something few would have predicted for Ginger in her early days.

An Oscar that few would have predicted, and that I would think was unwarranted, if I thought Oscars were based purely on talent, which we know they are to some degree only. I loathe 'Kitty Foyle', but then I've never particularly liked her in anything except the Fred movies, and I tend to like him with Cyd and Eleanor a great deal more. I can see that 'Stage Door' is a good film, but I don't care for it, and Katharine Hepburn is extremely irritating in it, as she also is in 'Stage Door Canteen'.

Sidwich, I guess you could call Sirk's film a 'great movie' (I still doubt I'd go quite that far), and what's interesting about it is the way the assessment of it has grown over the years, I think Sirk began to be really appreciated here in the mid-80s by film scholars, and was shown a lot at revival houses, etc., although it may have been earlier. There was an atmosphere about the film that is still very effective in evoking the meaning of the title's 'imitation' emphasis, and those opening credits with the rhinestones slowly falling to Earl Grant's mellow singing of the Sammy Fain song are always a bit hypnotic. John Gavin was just right for the look of this film, he wasn't supposed to be 'interesting' especially. Claudette Colbert was very good in the early version, although I don't think it's her best work by a long shot. 'Bluebeard's Eighth Wife' with Cooper is very enjoyable, and 'Palm Beach Story' is truly delicious, not to mention the obvious.

Share this post


Link to post

We'll have to agree to disagree, Patrick. Rogers was good in drama even if she occasionally bit off more than she could chew. 'Stage Door' has great ensemble acting and the faceoff between Hepburn and Rogers is memorable and funny. It's a fine film.

Share this post


Link to post
We'll have to agree to disagree, Patrick. Rogers was good in drama even if she occasionally bit off more than she could chew. 'Stage Door' has great ensemble acting and the faceoff between Hepburn and Rogers is memorable and funny. It's a fine film.

I agree; great cast and solid acting all around. I actually quite enjoy Roger's flicks w/o Fred, especially the Major and the Minor (although it's not drama). I thought her performance in Kitty Foyle was excellent. It's a bit too much of a tear-jerker for me to like unequivocally but I certainly couldn't fault Ginger.

Fred and Ginger were the ne plus ultra of hollywood musicals and no other dancer (even my beloved Rita H) could match the chemistry that Rogers had with Fred. Despite his continued success later in his career, I don't think Fred ever improved on his RKO flicks and I have a general dislike for those garish MGM musicals (though I can tolerate the garishness of the Bandwagon, mainly because I have Cyd to distract me :( ).

Share this post


Link to post

I really like The Major and the Minor. Anoth Bachelor Mother is a funny one, too. I love the scene where David Niven goes back to his own store to get a malfunctioning toy duck replaced.

Fred and Ginger were the ne plus ultra of hollywood musicals and no other dancer (even my beloved Rita H) could match the chemistry that Rogers had with Fred. Despite his continued success later in his career, I don't think Fred ever improved on his RKO flicks and I have a general dislike for those garish MGM musicals (though I can tolerate the garishness of the Bandwagon, mainly because I have Cyd to distract me

Rogers looked perfect with Astaire and even in the early days when she's less sure of herself she still can't do anything that looks ugly or bad. I also love the lovely Rita but I tend to get the feeling that Rita is just a little too young and too resplendent for him to be quite at ease.

It's true that the MGM musicals are garish but it's possible to argue that as a whole they're better movies (the Freed unit ones, anyway) - better written, better directed, better acted as a whole, even if the noisy color and often intrusive orchestrations get on your nerves. ("Dancing in the Dark" with its tasteful orchestration and Charisse's simple dress, is such a relief; I confess these days I usually turn off the movie after that number.) On the other hand, Fred and Ginger's RKO musicals have the two of them and other assets.

Share this post


Link to post

ballet_n00b:

I don't think Fred ever improved on his RKO flicks and I have a general dislike for those garish MGM musicals

The RKO musicals were in black and white which gave them a tonal coherence that color can't. Also black and white makes form abstract, whereas color -- especially MGM's saturated Technicolor -- draws your attention to the thingy-ness of things: door hinges, chair knobs, tassels, which compete for attention with the nuances of the actor's manner and acting style.

(The Bandwagon of course is wonderful, especially the scenes from old Penn Station, but it's a comparatively "introspective" musical.)

All the studios had different looks and even the black and white differed from studio to studio -- MGM ran their own lab at least through the seventies as did Fox/Western -- and you could to tell the studio the film came from by the high keyed lighting or a long grey scale, almost as you could recognize a melody from a few notes. They had specific art directors and costume designers (Sirk worked with two set designers at Universal who had a big impact on the look of his films, mirrors and shadows on walls, and there were Adrian at MGM, Edith Head at Paramount and even Karinska). Each studio also had a small group of character actors who would amusingly reappear over and over in the background -- think of the great band of minor Preston Sturges characters.

RKO and Columbia were supposed to be more experimental and a lot of the early screwball comedies came from them -- from Hawks, McCarey, LaCava, Stevens...

Share this post


Link to post

MGM was about The Beautiful People but Tod Browning's Freaks was made there. Buster Keaton vanished into its maw. The minor studios had fewer options. RKO gave carte blanche to Orson Welles for Citizen Kane out of desperation, but without that desperation we wouldn't have the movie.

The Art Deco look of the Astaire-Rogers movies is fabulous but if RKO could have shot with color they would have. Once the technique improved you didn't see musicals without color because color was better. The Astaire-Hayworth movies made at Columbia would have been improved immensely with color but the studio wouldn't spend the money.

It wasn't everything, of course. 20th Century Fox's musicals had the best color but there was often nothing else to see in them. I can't really say MGM's color doesn't bother me especially but the orchestrations and heavy makeup for the women often do.

I thought her performance in Kitty Foyle was excellent. It's a bit too much of a tear-jerker for me to like unequivocally but I certainly couldn't fault Ginger.

Yes, she brings some of that Rogers zip to the material. The movie is sentimental but she isn't. Too bad she couldn't have done the same with Tender Comrade.

Share this post


Link to post

I've started reading Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro by Andre Soares. I'm only to 1924 at this point (and the merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Productions into the colossus that would become M-G-M.)

I'll let you know what I think of the book when I'm finished with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.