Friday, May 10, 2013

My favourite cat movie when I was a kid was the three lives of thomasina. It was full of magic and mystery and a cat that came back from the dead. She didn't really, she was actually still alive when the kids thought she'd passed and held a funeral for her. The witch in this movie isn't really a witch either. The kids just think she is. But Bell, Book and Candle had real witches and real magic! Long before there was Harry Potter there was Jack Lemmon as a warlock making the streetlamps of Greenwich Village go off and on in the depths of the hushed night, and Kim Novak casting her spell over James Stewart. They'd starred together earlier that same year ('58) in Vertigo (B, B and C would be Stewart's last romantic lead). Add to that Ernie Kovaks as a famous novelist and Hermoine Gingold at her witchy best and Elsa Lancaster as a witch named Queenie and you've got a heady brew, a cauldron full of surprises and wonder. Now add to that potion the mysterious powers of the cat. Pyewacket, Kim's beautiful Siamese cat, her faithful familiar. Pyewacket was the cat's real name and she is listed on IMDb as an actress. B, B and C was her only film. But she was brilliant! I named one of my cats after her and she became but one in a long line of my faithful familiars. (More on that later). And who doesn't remember Cat from Breakfast at Tiffany's? Cat was played by Orangey who won his second Patsy Award (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) for this role. Orangey's first Patsy was for playing a cat named Rhubarb in the 1951 movie of the same name. Other celluloid cats of note: Tao in The Incredible Journey, Milo from Milo and Otis, Lucifer from Cinderella, Abraham de Lacey Guiseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley, (and all the others) from The Aristocats, Jones from Alien and Aliens. And my all time favourite top cat of the cinematic world: Baby from Bringing up Baby.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jean Louis Loved Muffs

Muffs were a fashion accessory from the old days. Really, they were. These “nests” or “little barrels”, as they were called, were made of sable or skunk or musquash (aka muskrat) among other materials, and they kept the hands of fine ladies cozy from as early as the 15th century. Sometimes these charming hand warmers did double duty and carried a latchkey, a tiny dog, or a pistol.

Renowned costumer Jean Louis designed fabulous muffs for Kim Novak in Bell, Book and Candle and Rita Hayworth in Tonight and Every Night. In addition to a fuchsia muff, Kim wore opera gloves of the same colour in BB&C to accent her burgundy dress. That outfit was topped by a hooded cape of deep wine-red that flashed fuchsia lining when she walked. An enchanting look for a beguiling witch.

Jean Louis also designed the famous black silk gown for the striptease number in Gilda. There’s no muff in sight for this costume. The black opera gloves are all that get removed before Rita Hayworth’s troubled heroine is escorted from the stage. But the muff Rita sports in Tonight and Every Night had purpose beyond style – it hid Rita’s pregnancy.

In a career full of amazing frocks and headdresses and muffs, a standout was Marilyn Monroe’s rhinestone encrusted Happy-Birthday-Mr-President gown, which she had to be sewn into. Jean Louis was nominated for an Academy Award 14 times and won but once, for Judy Holliday’s chic threads in The Solid Gold Cadillac.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Chairman of the Board

12 years ago this month Ol' Blue Eyes checked out. This is my koo-koo tribute to Frankie and his wild, knocked-out, groovy cinematic oeuvre.

Suddenly, the Man with the Golden Arm (not The Oscar) was Out on the Town with all the Guys and Dolls in High Society getting Higher and Higher and feeling Young at Heart. Take me Out to the Ball Game, he demanded, then took the Road to Hong Kong and went Around the World in Eighty Days on Von Ryan’s Express, traveling From Here to Eternity with The List of Adrian Messenger which read: Ocean’s Eleven, Robin and the 7 Hoods, Sergeants 3, and 4 for Texas, those latter 4 being: Pepe, Dirty Dingus Magee, Pal Joey, and Tony Rome. All of them wanted to be The Manchurian candidate but only Some Came Running and none were dancing the Can-can. Not as a Stranger he prepared to Meet Danny Wilson but instead Johnny Concho showed up. With his Marriage on the Rocks and Never so Few on his Carousel, Johnny called The Detective who found a Lady in Cement and assumed there’d been an Assault on a Queen. He needed that like A Hole in the Head so he set The Tender Trap to catch The Naked Runner whom he suspected was also The Kissing Bandit, and wouldn’t that be Double Dynamite? Meanwhile The Devil at 4 O’clock declared The Pride and the Passion to be The First Deadly Sin which Cast a Giant Shadow over The Miracle of the Bells and Cannonball Run II. And while It Happened in Brooklyn, he declared: Meet me in Las Vegas in The House I Live In because that’s where None but the Brave and Kings Go Forth. Till the Clouds Roll By, Come Blow Your Horn and Step Lively, for The Joker is Wild. Anchors Away.

Every single movie that Sinatra made - good, bad, ugly - is in the above paragraph.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Farm

I once worked on a movie called The Farm. It starred Colin Farrell and Al Pacino. Fortunately its name was changed to The Recruit for release. I wouldn't have wanted that Hollywood formula flick to get confused with the excellent short The Farm. Fortunately for filmmaker Tom Henry, the fate that befell Cronenberg and his compellingly original and amazing movie Crash (thanks to Paul Haggis and his derivative and less than amazing movie Crash) will not repeat itself in this instance. Watch The Farm - I've heard Pacino makes an uncredited cameo appearance (he was being sheepish). Bleat.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vargas Goes Mum

I’ll be back - just like Jane Froman in With a Song in My Heart (Walter Lang 1952) except that my legs are fine and I can’t sing and I’ve never entertained the troops (?)

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when - okay I do know where: right here but I really don't know when.

Sayonara (Joshua Logan 1957)
Farewell My Lovely (Dick Richards 1975)
Goodbye Mr Chips (Sam Wood 1939)
Bye Bye Birdie (George Sidney 1963)
The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman 1973)

See you in the movies!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Preposition Cinema Part 5: Up, Down, Over and Out

Bringing up Baby (Howard Hawks 1938)
Downhill (Alfred Hitchcock 1927)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman 1975)
Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur 1947)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Preposition Cinema Part 4: ON

Right On:
Miracle on 34th Street(Geroge Seaton 1947)
On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan 1954)
Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock 1951)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean 1957)
Knock on any Door (Nick Ray 1949)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Preposition Cinema: Part 3: TO

Much To(o) Marvelous:
To Sir With Love (James Clavell 1967)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Richard Mulligan 1962)
Mr Smith Goes to Washington(Frank Capra 1939)
Mr Deeds Goes to Town (Frank Capra 1936)
To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks 1944)
To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock 1955)
An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey 1957)
To Each His Own (Mitchell Leisen 1946)
Witness to Murder (Roy Rowland 1954)
From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann 1953)
Passage to Marseille (Michael Curtiz 1944)

Hope to Lamour to Crosby:
Road to Singapore (Victor Schertzinger 1940)
Road to Zanzibar (Victor Schertzinger 1941)
Road to Morocco(David Butler 1942)
Road to Utopia (Hal Walker 1946)
Road to Rio (Norman Z. McLeod 1947)
Road to Bali (Hal Walker 1952)
Road to Hong Kong (Norman Panama 1962)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Preposition Cinema Part 2: IN

In Like Flynn:
Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti 1971)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai 2000)
Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci 1972)
A Place in the Sun (George Stevens 1951)
In Credible:
Love in the Afternoon (Billy Wilder 1957)
In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray 1950)
The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang 1944)
An American in Paris (Vincent Minnelli 1951)
Stars in my Crown (Jacques Tourneur 1950)
Singing in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly 1952)
Christmas in July (Sturges 1940)
Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch 1932)
Spring in a Small Town (Fei Mu 1948)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Preposition Cinema: Part 1: OF

Cream Of the Crop:
Children of Paradise (Marcel Carne 1945)
Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean 1962)
Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming and King Vidor 1939)
The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford 1940)
Woman of the Year (George Stevens 1942)
Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks 1941)
Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick 1957)
Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock 1943)
The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton 1955)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles 1958)
The Saga of Gosta Berling (Mauritz Stiller 1924)
The Talk of the Town (George Stevens 1942)
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (Werner Herzog 1974)
Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur 1947)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston 1948)

Kind Of Fabulous:
The Pride of the Yankees (Sam Wood 1942)
Birdman of Alcatraz (John Frankenheimer 1962)
Of Human Bondage (John Cromwell 1934)
In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison 1968)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols 1966)
The Sound of Music (Robert Wise 1965)

Also Of Note:
The Docks of New York (Josef von Sternberg 1928)
Confessions of an Opium Eater (Albert Zugsmith 1962)
Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky 1948)
Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett 1977)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (John Cassavetes 1976)
Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway 1947)
The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler 1945)
Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger 1959)
Of Regret:
The Birth of a Nation (DW Griffith 1915)