Freewheelin’

I loved a photograph that I came across recently of Hollywood star Olivia De Havilland riding a bike on her 103rd birthday.

My wife asked me “I wonder if she ever gets to the point where she thinks her days are numbered?”

At 103 I’m sure it might have crossed her mind.

Of The Silent World:Dolores

As a self-confessed fan of both old movies and old photographs, I love this. It is Dolores Costello, who married John Barrymore, and is the grandmother of Drew Barrymore.

I’m sure there are other family members who could be name dropped here, too. 🙂

Oh the days before the world succumbed to sound and colour.

img_2071

Pain Is Love

I woke this morning to the news that Debbie Reynolds had died, just one day after Carrie Fisher. The strain must have been just too much for the aged star. “She’s now with Carrie and we’re all heartbroken,” said her son, Todd Fisher. “She said, ‘I want to be with Carrie’, and then she was gone.”

Debbie wanting to be with her daughter is a nice thought, but what a time their family must be going through. On hearing the news, the lyrics of Ja Rule came to mind:

If pain is truly love,

for my family I die.

R.I.P both mother&daughter.

Where In The Tree Is Vivien?

I recently finished reading a biography about possibly my country’s greatest actress: Vivien Leigh. Triumphant and tragic, always lovely, ever fragile, her most difficult part was that of her own life.

image

My post on an old movies site on Facebook provoked a conversation about her being England’s greatest actress. I was asked what it was about her that made me of this opinion, and how she faired in comparison to the likes of Dame Judi Dench and Dame Helen Mirren. (The question was asked in all innocence, purely out of curiosity, as it was posed by a fan of Vivien’s who was curious as to why I hold her in such similar esteem.)

I replied that both Judi Dench and Helen Mirren are fine actresses, (Elizabeth Taylor too), but to me there seems a certain gravitas in both Leigh’s performances and in her attitude towards her craft. Most of her performances were on stage and not before a camera, and she would often say that she was an actress, not a film star. Two Oscars not withstanding.

If only her Lady Macbeth, among other roles, had been recorded!

She brought both beauty and art to her roles, but she thought that her looks obscured her abilities as an actress.

image

Responding to the original question in making a decision about where she ranks, we can only go off anecdotes, regard, performances and achievements.

There was a firm courage that underscored Leigh’s sometimes fragile demeanour, which becomes apparent when you learn of her long struggle with both tuberculosis,(which ultimately would claim her), and mental illness. There are accounts of her appearing on stage after undergoing electric shock treatment, burn marks still visible on her temples.

When she was making her final film, Stanley Kubrick said that it was obvious she was ill. About to shoot a scene, she would be shaking on set. Leigh would take herself off to the side, master control of herself, then come back and complete a perfect take, her trembling  returning on finishing.

This final indication of dedication and braveness underlines her greatness. One man’s meat and all that, but when considering the pantheon of our great actors and actresses, for me Vivien Leigh is up there at the very top.

MBDGOWI EC051

VIVIEN LEIGH holding her Academy Award for Best Actress for Gone With Wind. 1940.

Of Brains, Beauty And Suspicious Wives

I was reading a biography of Hedy Lamarr. For a while my wife, Jen, showed no interest. She thought it was a book about a man named Eddie.

image

Then she glimpsed the close-up of the face on the cover.

“Have you got that book to perv?”

“Of course not. I picked it up at the library. You know I like old movies, and I was intrigued that she was also an inventor.”

She picked the book up, immediately confronted by the title:

Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman In Film.

“Hmmm . . .” 

She seemed prepared to give me the benefit of the doubt. But it seems the Fates were working against me.

She opened the book, and out of 281 pages, she happened on the very one that informed her that Lamarr acted out the first female orgasm on screen.

“She was a porn star?”

No, I explained. She was an actress, adding weakly (again) that she was also an inventor.

“Well she didn’t invent the orgasm.”

She flicked through the book, pausing on another page.

(Goddamn you, Fates!)

She decided to hit me with a verbatim quote:

Aged 52, she accused a business-machine repairman she had known and dated for six months of raping her at gunpont. In court, a macabre interest was revealed: he liked to keep people in jars. He told the judge “I don’t know why she was shocked, no one else is. I have a five-month-old baby and a foetus that I got from a hospital in the east; a mummy, and also a unicorn.”

“What the hell is this crap that you’re reading?”

She got the impression that Hedy Lamarr was an orgasm-faking floozy who was raped by a man who collected foetus’, dead babies and unicorns. Easy mistake to make.

I immediately sought out something that might paint Lamarr in a more positive light, such as the invention that she worked on to aid the war effort, the technology which we encounter today whenever we use mobile phones or Wifi.

I thought that this might win her over:

Lamarr worked with a man called George Antheil on the invention. His wife came home one evening to be told that her husband couldn’t dine with her, as he was expected at Hedy Lamarr’s, (you know, the most beautiful woman in film), and she was not invited. They were too busy working on something.

“Oh, so you’re going to be busy! ” Böski, his wife, exclaimed. “What doing, dare I ask?” She was a trifle sarcastic.

“We are inventing a radio-directed torpedo,” he said.

“Indeed,” said Böski frigidly.’

Jen snorted: “Oh, that old chestnut. Inventing a radio-directed torpedo. Try a line like that with me and you’d be copping for a head-directed missile.”

Think she prefers Meryl Streep.

When The Stars Shone Brighter

Well, the Oscars are almost upon us. You know what? Current controversy aside, I have never watched a single Academy Awards presentation. Not a full show, live, anyhow. I may have caught the highlights the odd year.

Do any of you guys watch it? Maybe it’s because I like old movies, but, to me, the Hollywood of the past seemed much more glamorous.

The stars appeared brighter. More luminous.

image

 

Four Quote Brando

I’ve just finished reading this book:

imageSome people think The Godfather II is one of those rare instances where the sequel is better than the original, but I prefer the first film for just one reason:Brando. He dominates the screen whenever he is on it.

I’m not one for in-depth book reviews, there are far better people than me out there for that kind of thing. Instead, suffice to say that I enjoyed the book, and I will leave you with four quotes from it.

On early Brando:

Kirk Douglas:”I went up for a part in Truckline. I didn’t get it. Bitter, I went to see the play, watched another actor in my role. I loved the first two acts-he was terrible. I congratulated myself on how much better I would have been. Suddenly, in the third act, he erupted, electrifying the audience. I thought, ‘My God, he’s good!’ and looked in the programme for his name: Marlon Brando.”

John Huston, after a screening:“Christ! It was like a furnace door opening-the heat came off the screen. I don’t know another actor who could do that.”

image

On the torment of his tragic, family life:

Brando:”The messenger of misery has visited my house.”

After his death:

Jack Nicholson:”Marlon Brando is one of the great men of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and we lesser mortals are obligated to cut through the shit and proclaim it. This man has been my idol all of my professional life, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. The impact of movies is enormous, and his impact in the movies was bigger than anyone else’s-ever…I think Marlon knew he was the greatest. I don’t think he dwelled on it, nor did he ever say as much to me. But, come on, there was a reason people expected so much from him right to the end. That’s why people always expected him to be working. And believe me, there were times when he told me he wanted to work and couldn’t. It disturbs me that toward the end, all some people could talk about was his weight.”

image

1924-2004