Norma Shearer has long been a subject of interest for me. I am an ardent admirer of her work, particularly since she successfully made the transition from silent pictures to become a film star in sound films, a feat many others couldn’t accomplish.
Then there is of course my fascination with the mythos behind Norma’s marriage to MGM wunderkind Irving Thalberg. She benefitted from this relationship but also had to fight for her place, not only has his partner but for the roles he didn’t think she could play. I’ve also always wanted to know more about her life post Thalberg and MGM.
Thankfully, I finally had the chance to read the biography written by Gavin Lambert who was a screenwriter, novelist and who also wrote biographies on Alla Nazimova and Natalie Wood. Lambert was able to meet Norma several times before she passed away, interviewed her son and some of her friends and was also granted access to personal papers owned by MGM, all of which help add personal knowledge and details that are vitally necessary in his tribute to a woman who rarely shared or even hinted at the inner Norma Shearer. Continue reading “Book Review -Norma Shearer: A Biography by Gavin Lambert”
During this challenging season, The Classic Movie Blog Association is hosting the Classics for Comfort Blogathon and asking participants to recommend five movies that “soothe and comfort” us. And even though I’m not a member of CMBA, I was so inspired I decided to unofficially participate.
My time and mental energy has been limited by personal and national events this past couple of months. And while I have many coping mechanisms, classic films have always been one of my main sources of comfort when life gets to be too much.
It would be very easy to fill my list exclusively with Cary Grant, William Powell, or Ernst Lubitsch films, blockbuster hits such as Gone With the Wind or Casablanca, gloriously colorful and larger than life musicals such as My Fair Lady or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or even other film favorites I’ve written about regularly here on my site. But I wanted to challenge myself a bit to look beyond the obvious.
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 was a 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.”
Not only are Stephen (Lionel Barrymore) and Jan Ashe (Norma Shearer) father and daughter, but they comprise a team of two against the world. Stephen has raised his daughter to think for herself, stand on her own two feet and to live free of the trappings of his high society family.
Stephen’s work as a criminal defense attorney introduces the independent Jan to gangster Ace Wilfong (Clark Gable). Their instant attraction causes Jan to end her engagement to her long-suffering and faithful fiancé Dwight Winthrop (Leslie Howard). Jan’s obsession with Ace blinds her to his true character. But even still she keeps their relationship hidden from her father. When Ace pushes for marriage, Jan balks. But her hand is forced when her drunken father finds her in Ace’s apartment late one night.
Jan’s shame is only outweighed by her concern for her father. She strikes a bargain with him that she will stop seeing Ace if he will quit drinking. She is scared that he is close to ruining not only his career, but his life with his addiction to alcohol. Stephen very reluctantly agrees. Will father and daughter be able to keep their bargain or will their individual addictions ruin their lives? Continue reading “Clark Gable Blogathon – A Free Soul (1931)”
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.
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”
I’m almost ashamed to admit that by my count I watched over one hundred films in the past year. That is not including made for television movies (I’m looking at you Hallmark.) Most of those were classic films, but I did manage to see a few new releases.
Of these films, the only one I didn’t enjoy was Hail Caesar. I was very disappointed as this was a movie I was eagerly awaiting due to its story about classic Hollywood. I’m a fan of series or sequels as long as the story is entertaining so I enjoyed Greek Wedding 2, Civil War and Jason Bourne. It was great to be introduced to a new Jane Austen story in Love and Friendship and I thought the new Ben-Hur was interesting. Continue reading “Film Year 2016 in Review”