In Defense of George Brent

GEORGE BRENT -AN UNDERRATED ACTOR

There are few groups more loyal than classic film fans. Many of us have our favorite movies, genres, actors and actresses and can passionately articulate what we love about each. Equal to our love is our dislike of those things that don’t live up to our standards or that we find disappointing. Actors and actresses particularly earn our derision, though we usually only discuss this within our own circles.

George Brent is an actor I’ve often heard mentioned with disdain.  Many classic film fans denounce him as wooden, his performances lacking emotional depth. I won’t deny that he is compared unfavorably to his contemporary counterparts. But unlike some, I’ve always enjoyed Brent’s films. I believe he has been unfairly and too harshly judged. I’m here today to convince you of the same. Continue reading “In Defense of George Brent”

Dynamic Duos Blogathon -Norma Shearer & Robert Montgomery.

Norma Shearer wasn’t known as the Queen of MGM without reason. Before she married the studio’s head of production, Irving Thalberg, she had proven herself as a talented actress in her own right. Undeterred by criticism and rejection, she clawed her way into a successful career through sheer determination, persistence and discipline.  Before Madonna, Shearer was a pioneer in reinventing her image. She a was woman who didn’t take no for an answer and who refused to let anyone else shape her public image. Sadly, she is not as well known today as other classic Hollywood film stars, which is a real shame. Because she is a powerful female role model even now, despite the misconception that she rode her husband’s coat tails to success.

Robert Montgomery has always been one of my favorite actors. His early years of comfort followed by loss gave him the strength and emotional tools needed to make a good actor. Montgomery has never been listed among the acting greats. I believe part of the reason he is excluded from that club is the lack of great parts that really allow him to shine. We see glimpses of it in his films The Big House, The Night Must Fall, They Were Expendable among others. But no one can deny that he was a solid, dependable, capable actor who played opposite some of the greatest leading ladies of the day. Continue reading “Dynamic Duos Blogathon -Norma Shearer & Robert Montgomery.”

Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon -National Velvet (1944)

SUMMARY OF NATIONAL VELVET

Velvet Brown is your average young girl. She lives in a small English village with her parents, older sisters and younger brother. But Velvet has one trait that sets her apart -she is horse crazy! Not only does she pretend that she owns her own equine, but she cares even more for the noble beasts than she does people.

Velvet’s life is first upended by the arrival of Mi Taylor, a suspicious young man with possible ties to her mother. Because Mi seems to share her appreciation for horses, she convinces both Mi and her family that he should stay. Though Mi is drawn to the freedom of the open road, he reluctantly agrees for Velvet’s sake.

Velvet’s life is completely changed when she wins a high spirited horse no one else wants in the village lottery.  But this is no ordinary horse to the young Velvet. She sees something special in the Pie. Suddenly, it becomes her mission to see him win the honor and glory she thinks he deserves. When Velvet learns of Mi’s familiarity with horse racing, she sweetly coerces him into a pact to train Pie for the world’s most prestigious race, The Grand National. But the odds are small and the stakes are high and no one believes the Pie can win. No one but his young dreamy owner. Continue reading “Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon -National Velvet (1944)”

Duo Double Feature Blogathon -Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci

Meryl Streep is not just one of the most celebrated actresses of our time but also in the history of film.  In my opinion, Stanley Tucci is one of the best actors of our generation. He is reminiscent of the character actors of the great golden age of classic cinema.

Though Streep is a leading lady and Tucci usually fills supporting roles, they both have the talent of utterly inhabiting the characters they play onscreen. Whether silly or serious, they don’t just act, but they become, creating a reality for the viewers which is rare in entertainment.

So, it is surprising that these two legends of the screen have only been paired together twice so far in their long careers. It is even more surprising when you watch them together in their two films, because their onscreen rapport is so natural and genuine.  Great talent is necessary to make the characters and the story come alive for an audience. But even the best of talent cannot fake the natural chemistry that must exist between actors to make the onscreen relationship between them credible. Either it is there or it is not. So let us take a look at the films of this power house duo. Continue reading “Duo Double Feature Blogathon -Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci”

Character Spotlight -Tracy Lord of The Philadelphia Story (1940)

“Would I trade places with Tracy Lord for all her wealth and beauty? Oh boy, just ask me.” Liz Embrie

Ruth Hussey as Liz Embrie

I feel ya, Liz, but appearances can be deceiving. To the outside observer (or tabloid photographer), Tracy’s life is one of ease and privilege. Tracy is fortunate to be part of Philadelphia’s Main Line society. As played by Katharine Hepburn, she is the typical example of the haughty entitled attitudes inherent to the elite. Born into wealth, she wears it with cool sophistication along with her couture wardrobe.

Despite her engagement to “man of the people” George Kitteridge, she has had little contact with the lower classes and their daily challenges. But Tracy is oblivious to her lack of true cultural experience and really believes she is without prejudice.

Continue reading “Character Spotlight -Tracy Lord of The Philadelphia Story (1940)”

Behind the Persona -Three Books About the Man Named Cary Grant

I have been a faithful fan of Cary Grant the actor for over twenty years. In that time I have read every book I could find about him to learn more about the man behind one of the most famous personas in cinematic history.

I have always been interested in biographies. I have read  biographies about many of my favorite film  stars. Over time, I have realized that I prefer the ones that focus on the individual’s personal background. While it is always interesting to learn about an actor’s career, who he worked with, why he chose certain projects, etc. I prefer it when those facts don’t overwhelm their actual story.

So, having done all the work of reading numerous books about Cary Grant, I am now sharing with you my three of my favorites.

Continue reading “Behind the Persona -Three Books About the Man Named Cary Grant”

Five Stars Blogathon -My Five Favorite Film Stars

Today, I am excited to be participating in the Five Stars Blogathon which is being hosted by Classic FIlm TV Cafe.

Anyone who has been following my posts will know that I absolutely love movies. This being the case, asking me to pick five, and only five favorite stars was an almost impossible task! I mean really, it would be like asking me to choose my favorite book (another impossible task) or my favorite breath for that matter. But for the sake of following the rules, I have managed to narrow it down to the requested five. Just don’t get the idea that I don’t have other favorite film stars. And since this blogathon is in honor of National Classic Movie Day, I am sharing my favorite classic film stars.

CARY GRANT

Be still my beating heart!

Any one who knows me knows of my love for Cary Grant. His film Bringing Up Baby was my first introduction to him, to classic film and to screwball comedy, all of which remain favorites to this day. Cary Grant was a versatile actor who was equally at home in both comedies and dramas. His characters tended not to take themselves or life too seriously and yet also retained a darker edge about them which was highlighted more in his dramatic roles. And while I enjoy his later dramatic films, my preference will always be for his pre-war comedies. Who else could pull of playing men of sophistication and privilege who were able to laugh and make fun at their own expense? Continue reading “Five Stars Blogathon -My Five Favorite Film Stars”

Introducing Vivien Leigh

PERSONAL BIO

Young Vivian Hartley

Vivian Hartley was born in 1913 in India where she was raised by her parents for the first six years of her life. Her mother eventually sent her to a girls convent school in England where she met friend and fellow actress Maureen O’Sullivan. Later on as she traveled with her parents she attended various schools in Europe and became fluent in French and Italian.

Vivian married at the young age of 18 to barrister Leigh Holman, a man many years older than she. By the age of 19 she had given birth to her only child, a daughter.

While pursuing her passion for acting in the theater, she met fellow actor  Laurence Olivier with whom she began an affair. Although they were both married to others and had young children, they fell in love and eventually obtained divorces which enabled them to marry.  They remained married for over twenty years and were linked together forever in the public mind since they appeared in numerous films and plays together. Continue reading “Introducing Vivien Leigh”

Introducing Cary Grant

Cary Grant is my all time favorite actor as well as being both a film and style icon. I’m a bit embarrassed that as an obsessive fan, he was not the first actor in my Introduction Series. So, this one may be a quite a bit longer than my usual actor introductions.

PERSONAL BIO
Young Archie Leach

Archibald Leach was born in 1904 in Bristol England to an alcoholic father and an over-protective but emotionally detached mother. He was an only child whose parents were working class, but his mother nurtured his fascination for theater and performance while his father impressed on him the value of quality apparel. At nine years old, his mother just disappeared from his life with no explanation. His father finally told Archie that she had died. Only years later in his middle age, did he learn that his mother had been committed to a mental institution.

As a young teenager he dropped out of school and joined an acrobatic travelling team which toured around England. Eventually he went with the troupe to tour in America where he took many odd jobs, but continued to hone his performance skills. It was during this time, that he began to craft the persona of Cary Grant for which he would later become famous.

Still Archie Leach, he began studying the mannerisms, speech, posture and other attributes of the cultured, educated crowd he wanted to mimic. He also began to practice his speech, dropping the English accent he was born with and developing what would be come known as a transatlantic accent which was cultured, but untraceable to any particular place. Continue reading “Introducing Cary Grant”

Introducing Gene Tierney

PERSONAL BIO
Young Gene Tierney

Gene Tierney was born in 1920 into a close, privileged family in Connecticut. She had a happy childhood. During a family trip to Hollywood, she was given a screen test and offered a contract, but her parents refused. She then headed off to a private boarding school in Switzerland where she became fluent in French. Upon returning home, she begged her parents to allow her to pursue her dream of acting. They agreed, provided that she audition for theater roles in nearby New York. Gene had favor and quick success. This led to a a contract with 20th Century Fox studios.

 

Tierney with husband Cassini

She married twice. Her first husband was Oleg Cassini, an immigrant from a noble family. (Cassini eventually became famous in his own right as a costume designer and later as owner of a fashion empire.) They had two daughters, her only children. Continue reading “Introducing Gene Tierney”