Sunday, October 30, 2016

Halloween Films 2

When I first started this blog, my second post was a list of Halloween Films. They were almost all comedies. Since then I have watched some scarier (to me) films that I would like to share with you:

The Leopard Man (1943) - another Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur classic, this one came out the year after the more well-known cult-film Cat People (1942). Set in New Mexico, it features Lewton's signature shadows and sounds, and even the same panther!

That moment when you show up to a party in a killer dress and with a panther


The Uninvited (1944) - starring Ray Milland and Gail Russell, this haunting film is a must-watch. Milland and his sister (Ruth Hussey) buy a cheap mansion that happens to be haunted. At night they hear a woman moaning but no one can ever be found. Gail Russell is a neighbor who lived there as a child - until her mother fell, or jumped, of the nearby cliff. When Russell comes to visit her new neighbors she falls into a trance. 

A séance is always a good idea.


The Innocents (1961) - a classic starring Deborah Kerr, a governess who is convinced that the two children in her charge are possessed by a couple that died there. I only watched a little bit of it on TCM, but I plan to watch the whole film soon.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

PT-109 (1963)

Back in the day when men were men and women were women and president's looked like president's... a movie was made about John F. Kennedy's service during WWII. The star of the film was Cliff Robertson, hand-picked by the president himself. The film: PT-109 (1963).
IMPORTANT: PT-109 is airing on TCM Nov. 1 at 8 pm ET. If you miss it, who knows how long it will be before TCM shows it again. I had to wait a couple years before they showed it earlier this year.

As most biopics, the picture runs long - over two hours. Now, being a big fan of Cliff Robertson, I didn't mind the long length. He's also the only major star in the movie.

Here is the description from the TCM site:
In the early days of World War II, Lieut. (j.g.) John F. Kennedy arrives in the Solomon Islands to assume command of the battle-scarred PT 109. After making hasty repairs, he and his crew are sent to rescue a Marine patrol trapped on Choiseul. Though the mission is successful, the boat runs out of fuel and has to be towed back to base. Then, on the morning of August 2, 1943, while attempting to prevent the Japanese from landing troops at Vila, PT 109, having no radar equipment, is rammed and split in two by an enemy destroyer. Two of the men are killed, and Kennedy decides the only chance he and the other survivors have is to swim to a nearby island. One of the men is too badly burned to swim, and Kennedy tows him through the water. All efforts to make their location known fail until Kennedy writes a message on a coconut, which friendly natives take to nearby Rendova. They return with a canoe, hide Kennedy under palm fronds, and deliver him to an Australian coastwatcher. After directing the rescue of his men, Kennedy learns he is eligible for transfer home; instead, he elects to assume command of another PT boat.
This clip on Youtube really made me want to see the movie. I love the line at the end:

Some trivia about the film:

The real PT 109 had been engaged in continual combat for five months when JFK took command, but was not the derelict, inoperative hulk depicted in the movie.

When President Kennedy saw early footage of parts of the film, his only complaint was that Cliff Robertson was parting his hair on the right, while JFK's hair parted on the left. Robertson dutifully parted his hair on the left for the film.

It was decided and approved by President Kennedy that Cliff Robertson speak in his natural voice and not try to imitate JFK's Boston accent for the film.

Cliff Robertson portrays John F. Kennedy during his late twenties during World War II. However, in real life Robertson was 40 years old when this film was released.

Mrs Kennedy's preference to play President John F. Kennedy was Warren Beatty.

The meaning of film's title "PT 109" is PT Boat 109 or Patrol Torpedo Boat 109 or Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109. PT is a symbol referring to a motor torpedo boat's hull classification symbol (aka hull codes aka hull numbers), in this case PT stands for Patrol Torpedo. Occasionally, movies will lend their titles to the numerical designation of a boat

I just learned the other day that Natalie Portman is starring in a film called Jackie about Jackie Kennedy following Kennedy's assassination. Rachel Weisz was originally wanted for the part (and she would have looked perfect in my opinion) but she turned it down. It is slated for release on Dec. 2 of this year.

This post is part of the Hail to the Chief! Blogathon hosted by Pop Culture Reverie. Be sure to read all of the other Presidential posts (especially if the coming election has been getting you down).

Friday, October 28, 2016

Costume Dramas of Golden Hollywood

Costumes, like everything else involved in filmmaking, are extremely important to movies. Without them, viewers would have to try to imagine them (like imagining sets in a play). As you can see, it would be very difficult to envision the tone of a film without them. Therefore, Hollywood has long spent lavish amounts of money of costumes, whether they are fantastical or gritty and realistic, glamorous or ordinary.

Rhett is definitely not in costume!

Costumes are especially important in Period films. It would be very difficult to imagine an Elizabethan setting if the actors were dressed in jeans and t-shirts! Or think of Gone With the Wind without all of those hoop-skirted dresses! Costumes also help the actor to get into their character and therefore act more convincingly, especially in a time they are not familiar with. It can also be plain fun, as Greer Garson recalls:
I think all of us have often thought how interesting it would be to live in a different age and time. Imagination at best is a poor substitute for reality. My role as Miss Bennett (Pride and Prejudice, 1940) was one of the happiest I ever played. In the charming feminine costumes of the period. working on sets authentically re-creating Old English homes, schooled in the modes and manners for the period, and surrounded by the proper atmosphere - gallant gentlemen, candlelight, carriages and pianofortes - it was possible to believe that I was Elizabeth [Bennett] while the cameras turned, and each night after work it was like stepping out of one world into another. I always hated to take off the colorful costumes and put on slacks, feeling something like Cinderella after the ball.
Why Larry! How dare you suggest my costume isn't authentic!

Because movies are so popular, what we see in the movies is convincingly real and sometimes the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred. Especially with costumes, "Hollywood usually offers its audience an elaborate and excessive vision of the past, filtering history through rose-colored glasses... to create the effect of a different time."

That being said, Hollywood gets many aspects of period costumes correct, but oftentimes it is mixed in a little with modern trends to be more easily identifiable with the movie-going public. Fabrics, silhouettes, undergarments, make-up, and hair styles were frequently, and sometimes purposefully,  changed for a modern look with an authentic feel, making the viewer feel like they had just seen something of historical fact yet at the same time be able to relate completely with the characters. They could also incorporate the looks seen easily into their wardrobes, as these patterns from 1939 show (released by Hollywood of course):

With period films from the Classic Hollywood era, one can still always tell what decade the it was actually made in, even if you aren't familiar with the main actors. A 1930s period film looks like a 1930s period film, just like one from the 1960s looks like it was made in the 1960s.

The fabric is wrong. The makeup is wrong. But it feels right.

Some actors and actresses strove for authenticity however. Bette Davis famously shaved her hairline to play Queen Elizabeth I not once, but twice! Even then, she wasn't allowed to shave it back as far as she wanted for fear it would alienate the movie-going public.

Nowadays, Hollywood and other film-makers are much more careful with getting the details right. For example, the popular BBC television drama Downton Abbey had a historical advisor on the set at all times to make sure that every detail was as authentic as possible. Even such small items as a letter seen for only a split second were handwritten in the style of the period. The celebrated costumes were sometimes actual 1920s items or had pieces taken from a gown falling apart and refashioned into a wearable piece using only materials that would have been available at the time. Some dresses were so delicate that they fell apart soon after filming! The makeup was even authentic, with just a little powder to even out skin tones. Here is a short video about the costumes, hair and makeup on the show (Warning: gives away plotlines). Here's another really short one.

If you are interested in pursuing this topic further, Hollywood and History: Costume Design in Film by Edward Maeder is an excellent book. It was a companion piece to an exhibition hosted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The chapters include Historical Dress in Films, Hair and Makeup, and their impact on fashion.


This post is for the Characters in Costume Blogfest hosted by Christina Wehner and Into the Writer Lea. Be sure to check out all of the other "form-fitting" posts ;)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cinema Wedding Gowns: The Long, Long Trailer (1954) & Forever, Darling (1956)

Recently for the first time I watched The Long, Long Trailer (1954) & Forever, Darling (1956). Both films star real-life couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, popular from the television sitcom I Love Lucy (1951-1957). Both are about a couple who gets married, has some difficulties, and reconcile in the end. Both use Yosemite National Park as a filming location. And both feature gorgeous 1950s lace wedding gowns (they are also in color but I was unable to take screenshots from either movie).

Left: The Long, Long Trailer; Right: Forever, Darling

As you can see, both dresses have a strapless bodice with a lace overlay featuring a high stand-up collar and long sleeves. They also both have a lace apron-like skirt over a full skirt of another type of fabric. Helen Rose designed the gowns for the first film and Eloise Jenssen designed those of the second. Both are ultra-glamorous and chic, as only the fashion-conscious Lucille Ball would have it. While the dresses are both featured somewhat briefly in the films, there are several lovely promo shots that show much more detail.

♥ ♥ ♥
The sketch by Jenssen (note how the veil is different) and the gown as seen on a model.

Lucy in the dress with a matching doll

The veils are tulle attached to a cap-like headpiece made of lace. While the one from The Long, Long Trailer sits on the back of the head and is a very typical 1950s look, the headpiece from Forever, Darling is much more over-the-top and falls well onto the face.

A coloring page to promote Forever, Darling

Saturday, October 15, 2016

How to Get Your Ex-Husband Back, According to Maureen O'Hara

There comes a point and time in a man or woman's life (especially the cinema life) that he or she wishes they hadn't gotten that divorce after all and try to win their ex back. The Parent Trap (1961) is a film that lays the steps out for us perfectly and clearly.

1. Get yourself a stylish haircut and wardrobe. You certainly don't want him to see you as a matronly woman, especially a "proper" one from Boston. Let him know you still have allure! Show off that fabulous figure! You will want to look your best next to his new, younger fiancé!

Before and after

2. Leave your lingerie in his bathroom. Make him realize what he's missing. Sure, he might get confused and think it's his daughters (did she grow up that fast?) but in his state of confusion he will have less energy to send you away or get involved in a fight between you or your daughters and his fiancé.

3. Recreate your first date (especially if it was romantic). Nothing will get a man in the mood better than good food, soft candlelight, and music. It will make him reminiscent and give him a glimpse of how his life could be if he goes back to you.

4. Reveal his fiancé's true colors. Send her on that camping trip instead. He will almost immediately see that she won't be a good companion for him and that she must just be after him for his money.

5. Make him your special stew when he gets back. Barefeet and a soft, clingy top in a color that goes well with your hair helps. Make an excuse to get him close to you (like get your apron knot too tight). He will really start to crave the home life he used to/could have. If you don't have him by then, see the next step.

6. If you need to, a good sock in the eye may help him see straight, no pun intended. That's right, let him know you don't need him. He'll come around.

7. And lastly, get help from your teenage daughter's. They can be immensely helpful in this sort of thing, especially if they are twins separated at birth ;)

And, in the words of Miss Inch, they "will all be one big, happy family."

How to DIY some of the costumes
Screenshots of the California Ranch House
The original puppets from the opening song!

This post is part of the Things I Learned From the Movies Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. To learn more, check out all of the other fantastic posts!