Monday, March 30, 2015

Monthly Movie History: The Legion of Decency

If you are a fan of Classic Movies you probably know about the Production Code, which was put into effect in 1934 by Will Hays (also known as the Hays Code).

The Legion of Decency was organized the year before, in 1933, by the Archbishop of Cincinnati, John T. McNicholas. It sought to  identify and combat objectionable content, from the point of view of the Catholic Church in the United States, in motion pictures. For the first quarter-century of its existence, the legion wielded great power in the American motion picture industry. It had it's own rating system and would publish lists of what films were suitable to watch and what films should be boycotted.
Rating System:
A: Morally unobjectionable
  • A-I: Suitable for all audiences
  • A-II: Suitable for adults; later — after the introduction of A-III — suitable for adults and    adolescents
  • A-III: Suitable for adults only
  • A-IV: For adults with reservations
B: Morally objectionable in part
C: Condemned by the Legion of Decency

Legion Approved List for 1938
Legion Pledge:
I condemn all indecent and immoral motion pictures, and those which glorify crime or criminals. I promise to do all that I can to strengthen public opinion against the production of indecent and immoral films, and to unite with all who protest against them. I acknowledge my obligation to form a right conscience about pictures that are dangerous to my moral life. I pledge myself to remain away from them. I promise, further, to stay away altogether from places of amusement which show them as a matter of policy.

Here is the Legion of Decency banned films list. I've seen three on this list (Psycho, Some Like it Hot, and Miracle on 34th Street) and there are four more that I want to see. If you're wondering why Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is on there, it's because it deals lightly with divorce, something that was more shocking in the 40s.

How many movies on this list have you seen?

Hays Code Cartoon
All images found via Google Images

Pre-Code Films: Platinum Blonde (1931)

Release Date: October 31, 1931
Running Time: 89 min.
Director: Frank Capra
Dialogue: Robert Riskin

Loretta Young . . . . . . . .  . Gallagher
Robert Williams . . . . . .  Stew Smith
Jean Harlow . . . . . . . .  Ann Schuyler
Reginald Owen . . . . . . . . . . Grayson

Down-to-earth reporter Stew Smith marries socialite Anne, despite their obvious differences in background. His fellow reporter Gallagher waits patiently for him to recognize that his marriage was a mistake and that she is in love with him. Stew becomes bored of being married as each assumes the other is the one whose lifestyle must change. Stew asks Gallagher to help him write a play. She arrives with a bunch of reporters and the mansion turns into a party. Anne arrives and orders them out. Stew goes with them. - source

My Analysis:

This movie was surprisingly good! I had never heard of Robert Williams before I watched this film but he is hilarious! I think it’s funny that Young is top billed but that this film is now primarily watched because of Harlow. Without her this film would probably not be known (even though her hair style is horrible here).


Trivia & Goofs:
  • Robert Williams died of appendicitis just three days after the film's release. He would be forgotten, if not for this role, as he was only in four other films and two shorts.
  • The film, originally titled Gallagher after Young's character, was renamed by Hughes to promote Harlow, capitalizing on her hair color, called "platinum" by Hughes' publicists. Harlow was on loan from another studio and was excited to do this film as it was her first comedy.
  • When Stew Smith is married, his colleagues make fun of him in the press room. At that moment his wife calls and he walks over to the phone with his pipe in his mouth. However, when he picks up the phone, the pipe disappears.

Stew Smith: Yeah, I know those bluenoses. Their ancestors refused to come over on the Mayflower because they didn't want to rub elbows with the tourists... so they swam over!
In a 2008 interview, actor Christopher Plummer called Williams " of the most realistic comedians the screen had. He made Cary Grant look like he was overacting... To watch Robert Williams act was like seeing a comic using the Method, long before the Method became famous with Marlon [Brando] and Monty [Clift]".
This post is part of the Pre-Code Blogathon hosted by and Shadows and Satin. Be sure to check out the other participator's posts!
All images found via Pinterest.

You may also like my Review of Magic Town (1947), a Capra-like film also written by Riskin.

Also, check out my post on the Legion of Decency.

More Screenshots here!

My 50th post!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

70th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima and so I thought this would be a great opportunity to share with you some trivia about the John Wayne movie: Sands of Iwo Jima (1949).

Summary: After his wife takes their son and leaves him, Sgt. John Stryker is an embittered man who takes his misery out on the men under his command. They're a bunch of green recruits who have a hard time dealing with Stryker's tough drills and thicker skin. Even his old friends start to wonder if he's gone from being the epitome of a tough Marine Sergeant to a man over the edge.

 You gotta learn right and you gotta learn fast. And any man that doesn't
want to cooperate, I'll make him wish he had never been born.
~ Sgt. Stryker (John Wayne)

  • Actual combat scenes taken during fighting on Tarawa and Iwo Jima were used in this film.
  • Mostly unnoticed is the homage this film pays to a real Marine, "Manila" John Basilone. Basilone was a Sergeant and hero on Guadacanal, winning the Medal of Honor. He was sent home for war bond drives but requested to be returned to combat. He did so and died on Iwo Jima. There is a famous (to history buffs, anyway)photo of his body on Iwo Jima, face down and with his name visible, that is almost exactly the same pose that Wayne is in at his death on film. Also, "Jonathan M" Stryker has more than a passing resemblance to "Manila (or M) John".
  • This film recreates the famous Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima scene as known famously from an historic photograph which was taken on the 23rd February, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal. The three surviving flag raisers make a cameo appearance during this scene in the film. These three men who were part of the flag raising (made famous by the photograph Joe Rosenthal had taken) and survived the battle for Iwo Jima, appear in this scene only. Rene A. Gagnon, Ira H. Hayes and John H. Bradley are seen with with John Wayne as he instructs them to hoist the flag (Wayne gives the folded flag to Gagnon). The flag used to recreate the incident is the actual flag that was raised on Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945. It was loaned to the movie by the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia.
Left to right: Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley
John Wayne and John Bradley, who played himself (he's quite a looker!)
  • This film was so highly regarded by the Marine Corps that it was required viewing to all recruits during basic training into the early '80s.
Thank you letter signed by John Wayne to the Marines for their help
  • The New York Times reported on 5 February 1950 that Republic Pictures was developing a sequel to this movie entitled "Devil Birds", again to star John Wayne, but nothing came of it.
  • John Wayne received his first ever Academy Award nomination for this movie. He wouldn't be nominated again for 20 years for True Grit (1969), for which he would win the Best Actor Oscar.
 You’ll never win anything.
You’ll always be taken for granted.
It’s just a cross you’ll have to bear.
~ John Ford on Wayne's loss 
  • Following the success of the movie, John Wayne was invited to place his footprints in cement outside Grauman's Chinese Theater. As part of the event, actual black sand from Iwo Jima was flown to Hollywood and mixed into the cement in which The Duke left his footprints and "fist print".

  • Kirk Douglas was considered for the role of Sergeant Stryker before director Allan Dwan realized he could get John Wayne to play the part [A perfectly natural reaction].
  • John Wayne turned the film down at first, since at 42 he was rather old for the part and because he felt the public had had enough of war films.
To the United States Marine Corps whose exploits and valor have left a lasting impression on the world and in the hearts of their countrymen. Appreciation is gratefully acknowledged for their assistance and participation which made this picture possible.
Premiere: John Wayne (far left) and Major General Graves B. Erskine (5th from right) - source
Source: IMDb
All images found via Pinterest

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Sound of Music: Costumes

Continuing our look at the film, The Sound of Music, which is celebrating it's 50th Anniversary this year.

As with any iconic movie, costumes play an integral part. This is the case with The Sound of Music. The costumes in the film convey the time, the place, and character of the person wearing them.

The costumes were designed by Dorothy Jeakins. It was her favorite project and garnered her an academy award nomination (she was the very first costume designer to win an academy award, beating Edith Head. The film of Joan of Arc in 1948). "I loved working on it. Bob Wise [the director] told me he didn't want saccharine costumes. He gave me a sense of the story's essence, and then he let me do my job."

"The children literally grew before my eyes," remembered Dorothy. "Especially Nicholas [Friedrich]." He grew from 5'3" to 5'9" during the course of filming (quotes taken from "Forever Leisl: A Memoir of The Sound of Music" by Charmian Carr, p. 35,  © 2000).

"Dorothy conducted painstaking research on Austrian garb, even down to the designs used on men's buttons of the day. Julie Andrews, the film's “Maria”, related that Miss Jeakins' focus was on making garments as authentic as possible, using lacing and buttons in place of zippers. Julie also revealed that of all the costumes she's worn during her many years on stage and screen, she never felt more beautiful than in the silk wedding dress Dorothy designed for The Sound of Music." - source

Many of the costumes were auctioned off in 2013, bringing in sums anywhere between $23,000 (the wedding dress) and $1.56 million (the outfits for the "Do-re-mi" number). You can look at the original auction site here. Below are photos of the costumes. Can you identify who wore each outfit and in what scene?

List of costumes that were auctioned.

Liesl's famous gazebo dress

"Julie Andrews, who played Maria, had the elfin proportions of her time. ‘You’re talking about a 16in or 18in waist,’ says Lou Bustamante, the creative director of Profiles In History. ‘She’s a pretty thin, tall woman and waist measurements back then compared to today were just out of this world.’
Despite its itty-bitty proportions, the Do-Re-Mi dress is rather unprepossessing, made of a thick brown raw silk and paired with a wheat-coloured blouse, ‘it was designed with the idea that she was poor,’ says Joe Maddalena, though ironically it’s now the most valuable dress of the collection" - source

"What child watching the film didn’t beg their parents for a curtain dress? But one child who wasn’t entranced was Kym Karath, who played Gretl, the youngest von Trapp. ‘I hated that costume,’ she laughs.
‘Loathed it! I was five at the time but I loved clothes and was acutely aware of what looked pretty. The curtain dress just didn’t look pretty to me. It was my least favourite costume.’
And what of Nicholas Hammond, who played the eldest son, Friedrich? He not only had to suffer the ignominy of wearing lederhosen, but floral-patterned lederhosen at that.
‘Poor Nicky had endless amounts of trauma,’ says Kym. ‘It wasn’t just the lederhosen – he had to bleach his hair blonde too.’
The costume designer Dorothy Jeakins, who had worked on The Ten Commandments and The Night Of The Iguana, was Oscar-nominated for her work on The Sound Of Music. She was a stickler for authenticity, right down to making sure the curtain outfits were made from... well, curtains. ‘It’s real canvas, curtain material for sure,’ says Joe.

They do look fairly drab in the flesh, ‘but the colours of the clothes change dramatically when you light them and Technicolor changes everything.’
Several versions of each costume were made, which came in handy for scenes such as the one where the canoe capsizes on the lake and the children fall into the water (‘I couldn’t swim,’ says Kym, ‘so that was a horrible experience – you can see how scared I look in the movie’), and also for when they started to grow, which during an almost six-month shoot was inevitable." - source

Carriage ride dress and apron

Brigitta's costume

Liesl's carriage ride dress

Liesl's Edelweiss dress

Marta's Edelweiss dress

Louisa's Edelweiss dress

Liesl's party dress, worn with a yellow sash and flowers


Maria's gazebo dress

A behind-the-scenes photo of the wedding dress

The children in their wedding outfits

Maria's final costumes

Liesl's "16 Going on 17 Reprise" dress

These costumes were auctioned off for $150,000

Check out this board on Pinterest for more pictures of the costumes!


With apron...


Want to make your own Sound of Music dress? Buy patterns of some of the iconic costumes here!

All images found via Pinterest