Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ringing in the New Year with Classic Films

Don't have a glamorous party to go to tonight? Watch one of these classic films! No one has a better party than them!


The Gold Rush (1925) - silent Charlie Chaplin film (on HuluPlus)

Like most holidays, New Year's Eve is meant to be spent with friends and family -- and in the movies, any character who spends the evening alone is more than likely feeling pretty melancholy. Charlie Chaplin's 1925 classic The Gold Rush provides a particularly poignant example with its classic New Year's Eve sequence, in which Chaplin is duped into believing the object of his affection will be stopping by his poverty-stricken cabin to celebrate, only to be stood up -- and eventually fall asleep at his table, dreaming he's the life of the party after all. Calling it "the outstanding gem of all Chaplin's pictures," Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times wrote, "Here is a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness." source

One Way Passage (1932) - William Powell & Kay Francis (sad but good)

After the Thin Man (1936) - William Powell & Myrna Loy, James Stewart

Holiday (1938) - Cary Grant & Katharine Hepburn

Bachelor Mother (1939) - David Niven & Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn

Article on the TCM blog

Holiday Inn (1942) - Bing Crosby & Fred Astaire

Sunset Boulevard (1950) - Gloria Swanson & William Holden

Room For One More (1952) - Cary Grant & Betsy Drake ( his real life wife at the time)

An Affair to Remember (1957) - Cary Grant & Deborah Kerr (watch with a glass of pink champagne)

The Apartment (1960) - Jack Lemmon, Shirley McLaine, Fred MacMurray

List of New Year's films (not complete) - can you think of any others?

Clips from classic movies featuring the song Auld Lang Syne. In order, the clips are from Ocean's 11, One Way Passage, The Gold Rush, Waterloo Bridge, An Affair to Remember, Wee Willy Winkie, Scandal, The Apartment, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Bachelor Mother and It's a Wonderful Life.

Happy New Year!

Remembering Luise Rainer

There has been one more Hollywood death before the close of 2014, a year that saw the death of two child stars, a poker playin' cowboy, an ugly cowboy, a girl who could whistle, and a comedian. Luise Rainer (pronounced "Rye-ner") was a bright star the dimmed quickly, yet who will always be remembered in Hollywood history.

Born Jan. 12, 1910 in Germany (some sources say Vienna).
Died Dec. 30, 2014 (pneumonia) in Eaton Square, London (in an apartment once occupied by Vivien Leigh).
Nicknames: The Viennese Teardrop, The New Garbo
Height: 5'4"
With first husband, playwright Clifford Odets, whom she met while filming her first movie, Escapade. Her marriage ended with divorce in 1940.
With her second husband, Robert Knittel, a New York publisher, with whom she had one daughter, Francesca. They were married from 1945 to his death in 1989.
Her Films
Rainer's Hollywood career consisted of only nine movies.

Escapade (1935): Set in Vienna in the early 1900s. The wives of two brothers are in love with an artist (Powell). He paints one of them (disguised in furs) and is then confronted by their husbands. He denies knowing either lady and makes up a name for the woman he painted. It turns out there really is a lady by that name (Rainer). They in turn fall in love. Complications arise.
Also starring: Frank Morgan, Virginia Bruce, Reginald Owen
Fun Fact: Myrna Loy was set to play the lead female part but dropped out. Rainer was chosen to replace her. She received rave reviews for her debut performance: "There is no need to tell you about any of the players except Miss Rainer. You are already aware that there is no man on the screen who can top Mr. Powell when it comes to playing the role of a fascinating philanderer. Nor can a word from this observer add anything to the reputations of such artists as Mr. Morgan and Mr. Owen. If either of them ever gave a bad performance, I missed the film. But about Miss Rainer: her great charm is her simplicity and directness. Because of her wide-eyed facial expressions, the manner in which she pronounces some words, plus certain tricks of inflection in reading lines, Miss Rainer will be accused of imitating Elisabeth Bergner." - source

The Great Ziegfeld (1936): A sumptuous, three-hour long biography of Florenz Ziegfeld (Powell), from his beginnings in show business to his final show.
Also starring: Frank Morgan, Myrna Loy (playing Ziegfeld's second wife, Billie Burke), Fannie Brice, Virginia Bruce, Reginald Owen, and Ray Bolger.
Rainer plays Ziegfeld's first wife. Her part is small but the telephone scene (which was almost cut) garnered Rainer her first Oscar nomination and win. She based the scene on part of a play by Jean Cocteau, "The Human Voice."
The scene that won her her first Oscar.
Luise Rainer accepting the Academy Award for The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

Fun Facts: Was the first biopic to win an Academy Award for "Best Picture."
Billie Burke (who was originally supposed to play herself) visited the set and posed for a photograph with Myrna Loy, who was playing her. Loy is only in the last 40 minutes of the film.

The Good Earth (1937): Based on the book of the same name by Pearl S. Buck. The story of a farmer in China: a story of humility and bravery. His father gives Wang Lung (Paul Muni) a freed slave as wife (Rainer). By diligence and frugality the two manage to enlarge their property. But then a famine forces them to leave their land and live in the town. However it turns out to be a blessing in disguise for them

Rainer plays O-Lan, originally offered to Chinese-born Anna May Wong
Her second Oscar dress - a nightgown. Here is a dress that reminded me of it.
Rainer won a second award for her role in The Good Earth. This made her the first actor/actress to win back-to-back Acadamy Awards. She was also the first actor/actress to win two Academy Awards. The following year, 1938, Spencer Tracy , Bette Davis and Walter Brennan also became double Oscar winners.
Rainer was forced to attend the Oscar ceremony by Louis B. Mayer to receive her Oscar. In the early Academy Awards ceremonies the winners were announced beforehand in the newspapers. A team of MGM staff arrived at her house and made her dress in appropriate evening wear, and rushed her to the show - just in time.
For my second and third pictures, I won Academy Awards. Nothing worse could have happened to me.

The Emperor's Candlesticks (1937): A male Polish secret agent (Powell) and a female Russian secret-police spy (Rainer) smuggle messages to St. Petersburg in candlesticks. While chasing after stolen candlesticks they discover each other's identity and fall in love. You can read my post on this movie here.
Also starring: Robert Young, Frank Morgan, and Maureen O'Sullivan.              

Big City (1937): To avoid a taxi war, city officials blame a gang bombing on driver Joe Benton's (Tracy) wife Anna (Rainer)and put her on a ship to deport her. The mayor is speaker at a boxers' banquet where Joe pleads for them to go with him to the wharf and rescue Anna (about to deliver their baby) from the ship.
The Toy Wife (1938): The beautiful and frivolous wife (Rainer) of a plantation owner (Douglas) in antebellum Louisiana, proves unsatisfactory at running the household, leading her serious-minded husband to enlist the help of her unmarried sister. The end is a real tear-jerker.
Also starring: Robert Young.
The Great Waltz
The Great Waltz (1938): A biopic about Johann Strauss set in 1845 Vienna. Features a classic triangle with Rainer as the self-sacrificing wife.
Dramatic School (1938): Aspiring actress Louise Muban (Rainer) attends the prestigious Paris School of Drama during the day and works at a dreary factory assembling gas meters at night. She daydreams and "acts" her way through life, and her fellow students at school begin to suspect her stories are just that - fabrications. After Louise begins to weave an actual meeting with a debonair playboy into a fantasy of club dates and romance, her co-student Nana (Goddard) discovers the lie when she too meets the playboy. Nana sets a trap for Louise, and the result is an end to one fantasy and the realization of another.
Also starring: Virginia Grey, Paulette Goddard, Lana Turner, & Ann Rutherford 
Fun Fact: MGM had planned for Greer Garson to make her film debut in the film, but shortly before shooting began, Garson injured her back and the role was recast with Luise Rainer.
On Rainer's performance: "Her portrait of the young actress almost insanely devoted to becoming a star is among the most coherent any performer of the Thirties achieved." ~ John Baxter, Hollywood in the Thirties (1968).

Hostages (1943): An anti-Nazi film, a comeback, and an end to Rainer's movie career. Watch it here.

Still from The Toy Wife
I don't believe in acting. I think that people in life act, but when you are on the stage, or in my case also on screen, you have to be true.
[on quitting Hollywood] I was very young. There were a lot of things I was unprepared for. I was too honest, I talked serious instead of with my eyelashes and Hollywood thought I was cuckoo. I worked in seven big pictures in three years. I have to be inspired to give a good performance. I complained to a studio executive that the source was dried up. The executive told me, 'Why worry about the source. Let the director worry about that.' I didn't run away from anybody in Hollywood. I ran away from myself.

With her two Oscars (one of which she used as a door stop)
Of all the living winners of a competitive Oscar Rainer had hers the longest.
She shares the honor of having several firsts with the Academy Awards. She was the first actor to achieve the perfect Oscar track record (two nominations-two wins). Only five other actors have achieved this. She was the first actor to receive double Oscars consecutively. She was the first to obtain two Oscars and was the first to achieve double Oscars before turning 30. She was the first actress to win an Academy Award for portraying a real-life person.
The first (and so far the only) multiple oscar winning actor or actress to reach the age of 100.
In what was meant to be a birthday tribute, TCM will be showing all but her first and last films on Jan. 12

Holidays in Hollywood: New Years

Happy New Year from the stars!
Myrna Loy, 1920s
Buster Keaton
Alice Faye
Jean Harlow
Bette Davis
Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford and husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr. at a New Year's Eve party, 1931
Shirley Temple

Olivia de Havilland

Dorothy Lamour, 1937

Bing Crosby, 1940
Betty Grable

Esther Williams
Donna Reed, early 1940s
Jane Wyman
Yvonne de Carlo
Greer Garson

Janis Paige, 1947

Anne Baxter and husband John Hodiak

Janet Leigh
David Niven

Lucy and Desi

Sandra Dee
Barbara Eden
All images from Pinterest