Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's a Wonderful Film

I am coming out of hibernation to contribute a post to Sally's annual 12 Days of Christmas Movies. This year I am going to be talking about Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life. This post isn't as detailed as I would like it to be, but I hope it reminds you to check out this film this holiday season. (For last year's contribution, here is my post on Christmas in Connecticut.)

I know a lot of people see this movie as sentimental schmuck, but on the other side of the spectrum are those who find the movie too dark (like the original 1946 audience).

Recently I've read a few posts that [humorously] expound the fact that the world would probably have been a lot better off if George Bailey had offed himself…or better yet, that he'd never been born in the first place. While I believe we all interpret films differently and each of us is entitled to our own opinions, I respectfully disagree. Sure, there are flaws with this film. I'm not saying that it is perfect and that I love every part of it, but I think the overall positive and powerful message overcomes any negative aspects.


This is not something that I have talked about much on here (since it is, after all, a movie blog), but I know what it is like to be depressed, to feel like your life is worthless, that it would have been better if you had never been born. Having felt this way I can really relate to what George goes through.

I think the beauty of this film lies not in it's perfectly conceived plot or airtight characterizations. It lies in the enduring message that each of us has a place in this world, that no matter how difficult or trivial our lives seem, or how many mistakes we make, we still matter. We have a role that no one else can fill. That message has a lot to do with the hope of Christmas, too. For isn't it a tiny Savior that came over two millennia ago to save us from our shortcomings, and to raise us to new life?

By now you might be thinking, "Um, Audrey, aren't you taking this a little far?" Hey, never underestimate the power of film!

Have a very Merry Christmas and holiday season, everyone! May God bless you all!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Taking a Break

Fedoras and High Heels is going on hiatus for a little while. I'm working on some other projects and have found it hard to keep blogging about *every* movie I watch. I am definitely keeping the blog up, though, and I may write more posts in the future. I just wanted to keep everyone updated on why I haven't been writing much on here lately.

As always, thank you for reading!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon: “The Life and Love of Joe Coogan"

Following along with the format of my previous review (of “Bupkis”), I’m going to highlight a few scenes and lines that I especially love from this episode. If you wish to watch this episode, you can do so free (and legally!) on Hulu.

This review might be a little shorter because I’m getting kind of tired. :)
"The Life and Love of Joe Coogan" is on Season 3, episode 17
Once again, Rob manages to evade the ottoman (fans of the show know that a few intros were filmed—some where Rob trips over the ottoman and some where he doesn’t.)

**This review does contain spoilers!**

Here is a summary of this episode to give you an idea of what it’s about:
Rob, Buddy and Mel have what they consider the most enjoyable round of golf they ever played, the enjoyment in large part to their stray fourth, a man they just met at the club named Joe Coogan. Good looking Joe mentions that he is single, has never been married and has only been in love once in his life while in college, coincidentally to a woman named Laura. As Rob and Joe discuss the issue further, Rob comes to the quick conclusion that Joe's Laura is also Rob's Laura, which he doesn't tell Joe. When Rob confronts Laura about why she's never mentioned Joe, Laura has to admit that she's kept some mementos of her relationship with Joe, namely love sonnets he wrote to her. Rob, on the other hand, is obviously hurt and jealous. His jealousy may increase when Laura, who has to come to the understanding why she kept the poems, decides to run into Joe ‘accidentally’ at the golf course...” (from IMDb)
Joe: "Some people can't play their regular game when they know who I am."

There are a lot of crazy jealousy plots in the series (something that Dick and Mary
commented on in an interview). It’s formulaic, but still fun.
Laura: "Rob, would it make you happy if I burned them? Is that what you want? You just say the word and I'll burn them."
Rob: "Burn them."
Laura: "No sir, not if you're going to take that attitude."

Laura shows Millie the shoe box of sonnets
Laura: "Men just aren't as sentimental as women."
Millie: "Well, I disagree. You never see a woman with a heart tattooed on her forearm saying 'mother', do ya?"

Laura: "What am I gonna do?"
Millie: "About what?"
Laura: "About the sonnets, Joe Coogan, my husband, my guilt."
Millie: "Well, I'd say: keep the sonnets, keep your husband, get rid of your guilt and see Joe Coogan again."

Later, at the golf course, Laura finds out Joe is a priest and invites him
over for dinner.

Mary Tyler Moore does such a great job playing baffled and nervous in this scene.

Laura calls up Rob at work to tell them that Joe is coming for dinner.

Rob, however, still doesn't know that Joe Coogan is a priest. (Laura "just happens" to leave that little detail out in her phone conversation with Rob.) Rob is upset about Laura inviting Joe to dinner so he asks Sally to come to flirt with Joe (neither of them knowing, of course, that he’s a priest).

Rob: "Sally, what are you doing tonight?"
Sally: "Nothing, but I think I can get out of it."
Sally: "What's he look like?"
Rob: "Oh, he's a cross between Gregory Peck and Stewart Granger."
Sally: "Eh, that ain't too bad. What's his name?"
Buddy: "Stewart Peck."

Sally: "You've got a vengeful streak in you've never noticed before."
Rob: "It's been in there for years I just keep it under control, that's all"

Look how pretty that table setting is. I always think the parties they have on
this show look like so much fun.
Rob comes home and finds out about Joe.
Rob and Laura nervously await Sally's arrival

Sally: "Where's this tall, good-looking…*sees roman collar*…PRIEST! you wanted me to meet?"

Rob's face here cracks me up.

My favorite scene is the last one, when Laura realizes the sonnets weren't written to her at all—they were written to God. In his poetry Joe was telling Laura that "he planned to dedicate his life to God." I love the closing line of this episode, where Rob tells Laura: "Look at it this way, you lost him to a better man." :)

One reason I chose to review this show is because I love how it handles the faith aspect. I find it notable for how respectfully it deals with Catholicism. The characters treat the priest with dignity, and religion and belief in God is not scorned at. This is an attitude that is rare to the point of extinction in today’s television sitcoms, so it’s refreshing to see how it’s handled in here.

This episode was written by the show’s creator Carl Reiner. Jerry Paris, who also played Jerry Helper on the show, directed (I’m sorry he’s not in any of the episodes I reviewed because I just love his character!). This is also one of the episodes that was shown at the recent 50th anniversary event held with Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke, which fellow blogger Laura (not Laura Petrie :)) was lucky enough to attend.

When I was looking up information about this post, I came across a site for an opera based on this episode. Yes, that's right--an opera! If you're really curious, you can find clips of the performance on YouTube. I'm not quite sure what to think of it, but it's definitely one of the more random things I've heard lately!

One thing I noticed when preparing this posts is how well this series holds up on closer examination. Often when I watch the shows, I'll have them on in the background while I'm doing something else. But when I sit down and really study them I notice how truly brilliant they are. The comedic acting is spot on, and so many of the little touches—right down to the bit parts—make this show stand out as a timeless classic.

I was going to prepare a third post for this blogathon but instead I will just put some links here.
  • Did you know The Dick Van Dyke Show theme song had lyrics? Written by Morey Amsterdam (Buddy on the show) you can listen to Dick Van Dyke sing the song here. (I saw a different video of this awhile ago but this is the best one I could find today.)
  • There is a great Tumblr for all things relating to TDVDS. You can find quotes, graphics, and pictures there. In case you ever wondered what the sets looked like in color, you can find some photos there! Also check out this site for more graphics.
  • Here are some fun sound clips from the show.
Thank you to Ivan for hosting this wonderful blogathon. I can't wait to read everyone else's submissions!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Dick Van Dyke Show Blogathon: “Bupkis”

It’s finally here! 'It' is The Dick Van Dyke Show blogathon hosted by Thrilling Days of Yesteryear to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this television classic. I will be reviewing two episodes, “Bupkis” and “The Life and Love of Joe Coogan.”

I started out doing a scene-by-scene, line-by-line description of this episode, but after working about two hours and finding myself only twelve minutes into the episode (stopping a lot to transcribe dialogue, make notes, and take screencaps), I decided to just highlight a few scenes and lines that I especially love from this episode. Plus, I think in most cases reading about the plot of an episode is not nearly as fun as just watching it. So if you want to watch it, you can do so for free on Hulu (I’m not sure if this works in other countries, but it does here in the U.S.)

One of the reasons I had to blog about this episode is because I frequently find myself humming or singing the eponymous “Bupkis.” The song is described in the episode as not that great:

"Bupkis" is in season 4, episode 24)

Rob: “It stinks—it’s a real stinker”
Laura: “Enough to be a big hit”

However, I kind of like the song; I think it’s very catchy.

To give you an idea of what this episode is about, here is a summary (contains spoilers):

“While listening to the radio, Rob hears a novelty pop song called  ‘Bupkis’ that sounds familiar to him. It's because he wrote it with a colleague named Buzzy Potter when the two were in the army. Apparently, Buzzy failed to give Rob any writing credit for the song. That's because two months earlier, Buzzy, down on his luck, came by Rob's office wanting to revive his and Rob's song writing partnership. When Buzzy asked about peddling the old songs, Rob verbally gave Buzzy outright ownership of the songs. Buddy and Sally believe that Buzzy probably already had a deal at the time to get the song recorded, and as such that Rob should sue, or at least speak to a lawyer about the issue. When Rob's attempts to be gracious with Buzzy result in a contemptible reaction from Buzzy, Rob decides he needs to get some sort of emotional satisfaction out of the situation, perhaps in the form of beating up Buzzy. In the process, Rob learns a little more about the true history of ‘Bupkis’.” (from IMDb)

In case you are wondering, Rob side-steps the ottoman in this one. :)

My favorite scene in this episode is when, during breakfast, Rob is listening for the morning weather report on the radio. There is this hilarious lullaby-like song that goes on and on:
Time for the weather.
Night time, day time, summertime, wintertime,
It's always time for the weather.
Weather, weather, weather, weather, weather,
Weather, weather, weather, weather, weather.
Night time, day time, summertime, wintertime,
It's always time for the weather.
You have to hear it to really get the humor, but this part always cracks me up. As always, Dick Van Dyke's reactions are hilarious.

After all that, Ritchie and Laura come in (Ritchie is wearing a raincoat that makes him look rather like a Storm Trooper.)

Rob: "It's time for the weather, I think."
Laura: "Oh well, thanks darling; I don't need it. I just looked out the window and it's raining."

Laura and Ritchie leave and the weather finally comes on:

Radio announcer: "The forecast for the metropolitan area today is warm and cloudy. And now back to music on WIFE, wife, the radio station most people are married to.” 

Rob: *chuckles* "Huh, I'd like to have a divorce"

Then “Bupkis” comes on:
You took my arm, with golden charm,
a diamond mine, a love so fine.
But what did I get from you? Bupkis!
What did I get from you? Bupkis!
Bupkis is a lot of nothing and
that's what I got from you.
Bupkis is a lot of nothing and
that's what I got from you.
Again, you have to hear the song. If you watch it on Hulu (see link near the top of this post), the “Weather, weather, weather” bit is about 1:34 seconds into the episode, and  “Bupkis” can be heard at approximately the 2:34 mark.

I love how Rob dresses—button up cardigans and skinny ties. I also love the fact that they drink their coffee out of a cup and saucer. When did we stop doing that?

I also have to mention Laura’s clothes. Her character is one of my style icons. I just love that early sixties style, and she pulls it off effortlessly.

Rob gets up and makes a phone call on his rotary telephone (remember those? I don't!) Leafing through the phone book he calls WIFE radio station and does one of those great one-sided phone conversations that Dick Van Dyke was so good at. He asks who wrote the song that was playing and finds out that it was Buzzy Potter...and no one else.

You can see Dick cracking up here, thinking he messed up the scene.
There is actually a goof in this part, according to IMDb:
Revealing mistakes: When Rob (Dick van Dyke) goes to call the radio station about the song "Bupkis," he dials the phone number first, and then realizes that he should have looked up the number in the phone directory that was present in the scene just for that purpose. So, with the phone to his ear *after* dialing the number, he flips through the phone book, finds a number, and says "Right!" as if he knew the number, but was just confirming it. Dick van Dyke (as Rob) smiles as he starts the phone conversation with the radio station, knowing that he blew the scene. Evidently, the director thought that no one would notice, so they used that take anyway.

Now jump to later that morning at the office: Buddy comes in, followed by Sally who is carrying a tray of coffee cups. Buddy lets the door swing behind him as he enters and Sally asks: "You gonna hold the door open for me, Gentleman Jim?" Buddy replies: "I let ya carry the coffee, what do ya want?" Sally rolls her eyes.

Sally: "Hey, your name isn't here. It says it's by Buzzy Potter."
Buddy: "You don't think any guy who wrote a song called 'Bupkis' recorded by the Dum-Dums is gonna use his real name, do you?"

Bupkis is a Yiddish word meaning ‘nothing’. Rob explains that he learned a lot of Yiddish words from Sol Pomerantz when he was in the Army.

According to the credits, the recording used in the show was sung by “Dick and Dee Dee.”

Rob: "It just so happens I wrote that song with Buzzy Potter."
Sally: "Oh, and they left your name out?"
Rob: "No, HE left it out!"
Buddy: "Oh, Potter's a crook."
Rob: "No, Petrie's a jerk!"

Another great scene in this episode is when Rob is trying to get up the nerve to tell Laura that he sold the song.

Rob keeps peeking over his newspaper as Laura puts together a puzzle.

Laura notices something is up and Rob comes over and proceeds to clumsily explains how life is a lot like a jigsaw puzzle.

DVD and MTM interact so well together. I think they have some of the best chemistry of any TV couple I’ve seen.

Laura: Suppose one of those songs you gave away became a huge hit. I mean, you’d probably feel
awful ridiculous—sit around here with your mouth open, blinking your eyes… {Source}
Mary Tyler Moore is really good in this scene.

I love Laura’s glare when Rob accidentally knocks her puzzle on the floor.

Love Laura's outfit here
 The last scene I'm going to mention is the one where Rob goes to find Buzzy.

There is a quick little part at the beginning where Rob is nervously pulling out the stuffing from a hole in the couch in the waiting room. He looks up sheepishly as he realizes what he is doing.

The (hilarious) secretary also noticed.

Rob runs into an old Army buddy, "Sticks" (who now goes by Frank) Mandalay, who used to play the drums. They are both there to see Buzzy Potter.

Rob: "He's got the whole ex-Army after him."
Secretary/Sheila: "And a couple of ex-wives, too!"

They finally catch Buzzy as he tries to sneak out. Buzzy's excuse isn't very convincing...

Buzzy: "After you were shipped out I heard that you were killed in action."
Sticks/Frank: "Where? There was no war then."
Buzzy: "Well, I thought that was strange."

Eventually both Sticks and Rob figure out what's going on.

Sticks/Frank: "You wrote the lyrics?"
Rob: "You wrote the tune? What did he write?"
Sticks/Frank: "His name on the music sheet."

Of course they finally square everything away and Rob and Sticks get the proper credit on the recording.
I hope these disjointed notes made sense. I'm not used to writing reviews for a single TV show episode!

Stay tuned for my post about "The Life and Love of Joe Coogan."

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!

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