Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fashion in Film Blogathon: *The Way We Wore* by Marsha Hunt

I’ve been looking forward to the Fashion in Film blogathon for a while now. Admiring the beautiful clothes worn in old movies is just one of the many reason I enjoy classic cinema. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you probably know that I often make note of the costumes in my reviews. I was originally going to just choose a film and showcase some of the outfits in it that I liked, but instead I decided to talk about a book—not a movie—that profiles some wonderful styles from the 1930s and 1940s. I hope this is acceptable for a film blogathon. I thought it might be excused since so much of the book talks about, well, fashion in film! image
The Way We Wore
is a beautiful coffee table book (though I read it cover-to-cover) by model, singer, and actress of stage and screen Marsha Hunt. In case you are not familiar with her, here is a little more about Miss Hunt, courtesy of IMDb:

“Stardom somehow eluded this vastly gifted actress. Had it not perhaps been for her low-level profile compounded by her McCarthy-era blacklisting in the early 1950s, there is no telling what higher tier of stardom Marsha Hunt might have reached. Perhaps her work was not flashy enough, too subdued, or perhaps her intelligence too often disguised a genuine sex appeal to stand out among the other lovelies. Two studios, Paramount in the late 30s and MGM in the early 40s, failed to complete her star. Nevertheless, her talent and versatility cannot be denied. This glamorous, slimly handsome leading lady offered herself to well over 50 pictures during the 1930s and 1940s alone.” image

Now approaching her 94th birthday, Marsha is still alive and active. She continues to work for charity causes and make public appearances (sometimes giving interviews at film festivals and the like).

This book was published in 1993 and is a comprehensive volume that profiles Marsha’s career and showcases the styles and trends of the ‘30s and ‘40s. There are a lot of interesting stories stories—from her experiences in a USO tour in the Artic, to meeting President and Mrs. Roosevelt—and anecdotes about what day-to-day life was like for a starlet during the studio era. Later on, she describes her experience of being blacklisted and her successful stage career that followed.

The bulk of the volume is comprised of film stills and glamour portraits with anecdotes and information interspersed throughout. One of the great things about this book is that it feels very personal—like you are just enjoying tea with Maimagersha and she is sharing all her stories with you. She also recalls stuff with incredible detail and her great appreciation of fashion comes through in the way she describes the colors and fabrics of the outfits. The accompanying captions really bring the black-and-white photos to life. Needless to say, Marsha has impeccable style herself, and even designed some of the outfits featured in this book.

While many of the photos are of the author, there are also a lot of screen stills of co-stars that include the likimagees of Ava Gardner, Greer Garson, Margaret O’Brien, Gregory Peck, June Allyson, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Ray Milland, Van Heflin, Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly, William Powell, and many more. Not all of these stars are pictured in the book, but the majority of them are.

There are also sections of the book that profile a certain topic, such as the Hollywood Canteen, cars, shoes, makeup, hats, hairstyles, etc. (See slideshow further down for examples.)

If you’ve ever wondered what daily life was like for a young starlet during the most glamorous era of Hollywood, or if you are just interested in vintage fashions, this book is for you. It is now out of print, so you may have trouble finding it. If you’d like to read it but can’t find any affordable copies online, I would recommend seeing if you can interloan it through your library system, which is what I did. (What, oh what, would I do with out ILL!)

To give you a better idea what it’s like, I’ve made a slideshow that features some pictures of pages from the book.

It seems that some of the slides don’t line up just right with the text. If you are having trouble with that (or if the images seem to small), click here for an easier viewing format. You should also be able to zoom in if you want to read the text.

Though some of the clothes may seem dated (and I believe Marsha even admits this), many are surprisingly accessible for fashion-lovers today. But while style may come and go, the things that Miss Hunt embodies in this book—pose, elegance, good character, grace, and beauty—are timeless.


This post is my entry in the Fashion in Film Blogathon hosted by The Hollywood Revue. I can’t wait to see what everyone else posts about!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987)

Watching Anne of Avonlea with my little sister. :)
Sept. 8-10, 2011

74. Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987) [a.k.a. Anne of Avonlea]—REWATCH

Starring Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Wendy Hiller, Frank Converse, Jonathan Crombie
Directed by Kevin Sullivan

Plot: “Staying faithful to L.M. Montgomery's beloved books, this continuation of the award-winning miniseries picks up where the first installment left off, with redheaded heroine Anne Shirley (Megan Follows) beginning a new life as a teacher and an aspiring writer. She also encounters career hurdles and unfriendly townsfolk, but with her typical enthusiasm and good cheer.” (Summary from Netflix)

That first line of the summary above is actually wrong—this movie does not stay “faithful to L.M. Montgomery’s beloved books.” According to Wikipedia:
“When Kevin Sullivan was commissioned by CBC, PBS and The Disney Channel to create a sequel he started by combining many different elements of Montgomery’s three later books: Anne of Avonlea (1909), Anne of the Island (1915), and Anne of Windy Poplars (1936) into a cohesive screen story. Sullivan invented his own plotline relying on several of Montgomery’s episodic storylines spread across the three sequels, He also looked at numerous other nineteenth century female authors for inspiration in fleshing out the screen story.”
And IMDb:
“Though the American title is ‘Anne of Avonlea’, it is only partially based on that Lucy Maud Montgomery book (second in the series), and is in fact based on parts from books 2-4 in the series (out of 8). This was because Kevin Sullivan thought there wasn't ‘enough dramatic material for a film’ in the sequel ‘Anne of Avonlea’ alone.”
My point is that this sequel is not entirely faithful to the books…but it is still a wonderful movie. However, I basically grew up watching the two Anne films over-and-over. So I might be a bit biased by sentimental reasons.

This is almost embarrassing to admit, but before watching this the other day (probably the 164th time I've seen it) and doing a little Googling, I NEVER knew that this wasn't strictly based on the second novel! You see, I have read all of the Anne books except the first two. Back then I was young[er] and stupid[er] and thought since I had seen the movies that the books would be boring. Thus I never knew that the plot of this movie wasn't true to the book.

Clearly I need to read/reread the series very soon (it's been years since I first read them). Still a great movie, but I'm kind of a literary purist about some of these things. I wish that they would've followed the books more carefully and made future movies based on them (please, let's not even talk about the third movie—*shudder*—and that ghastly 'prequel' which I refuse to see). Part of me wishes for a remake of this series which follows the book more. But…I just have a hard time thinking that anyone else can play Anne, Marilla, Matthew, Rachel, Diana, etc. quite like this cast did.

Okay, so back to the film at hand. I think Megan Follows does an amazing job playing Anne. She gives so much life and spunk to the character.
{Click image for source} Is it just me or is Anne's hair not RED enough?
Love this picture
Jonathan Crombie I'm not totally fond of, though. He always just seemed a bit namby-pamby to play Gilbert (who in my opinion is one of the ultimate romantic heroes in fiction. So I’m kind of sad that I don’t love the actor who plays Gil). He’s not really awful, just not my favorite.

The rest of the cast is virtually perfect. Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla is wonderful, and Wendy Hiller is amusing in her scenery-chewing role (“drrrrenched”). I also really enjoyed the plot development of Katherine Brooke. Her character gets some fantastically quotable lines. For example: “What is to be the pill in all this jam, Miss Shirley?” and “Have you girls no propriety? This is not a Turkish bazaar!”

To summarize: this film has wonderful atmosphere, casting, costuming, characterization, romance, humor….and warmth to spare. It is really one of my favorite films and I never seem to tire of rewatching it. It may not be perfect but I enjoy it too much to really care. :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Foolish Heart (1949)

Sept. 4-5, 2011

72. My Foolish Heart (1949) 

Starring Dana Andrews, Susan Hayward, Kent Smith, Lois Wheeler, Jessie Royce Landis

Directed by Mark Robson


Plot: “After a long absence, Mary Jane visits her schoolfriend Eloise, and Eloise's daughter Ramona. Eloise drinks too much and is unhappily married to Lew Wengler. Eloise falls asleep and remembers her time with her true love, Walt Dreiser, at the beginning of the Second World War. She recalls the events that lead up to her split with Mary Jane, and how Lew married Eloise rather than Mary Jane.” (from IMDb)

I really didn’t care for this one at all. Originally based on a story by J.D. Salinger which was published in The New Yorker, this film is a 98 minute soap opera tear-jerker.

I guess my main problem with this is that I couldn’t relate to the characters: I didn’t understand what Eloise saw in Walt. I thought it was irresponsible of the father to send his young daughter back alone to New York. I thought Walt was a jerk who really only wanted one thing from Eloise. Elle’s father and Walt were also rather chauvinistic in dealing with her expulsion. It bothered me that they treated the whole thing in this *wink*wink* manner. Didn’t they care about her future? She was just expelled! I also disliked Eloise for falling so cheaply and then marrying the wrong man on a rebound. Ugh! It was just frustrating, and honestly it all made me feel a little sick. I just found the characters’ motivations frustrating and unconvincing. Add to that the fact that the film is painfully predictable, and it’s not a winner in my book. 


I used to like Dana Andrews quite a bit, but I didn’t like his character at all in this. He really came across as insincere, haughty, and demeaning to Eloise (Susan Hayward). But maybe that was just me…?


Sorry for the grainy quality of these screencaps; the copy I viewed was rather poor.


Edith Head designed Hayward’s wardrobe.


I know this is supposed to be oh-so-romantic, but I really did not like the storyline at all. The two leads were supposed to be madly in love, but I did not feel much chemistry between them.


At first I felt like Susan Hayward was not that great in this, but I thought she got better—to the point of being quite excellent—as the film went on. She does a commendable job of showing the progression and emotion of her character. Especially near the the end of the film, I was really captivated by her ability to make me feel what Eloise was going through. Even though I thought her character made some stupid choices, it was still really sad.


Susan was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this role.


If you enjoy this type of weepy flash-back-to-first-love film, you might enjoy this. As you already know, I didn’t. But I could’ve just been in the wrong mood to watch a super sad film like this. It was kind of depressing!


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