Thursday, 29 November 2012

My Favorite Movie Characters

Females - in no particular order 

1. Nina Ivana Yakushova, Ninotchka (1939), played by Greta Garbo



2. Marie "Slim" Browning, To Have and Have Not (1944), played by Lauren Bacall



3. Tess Harding, Woman of the Year (1942), played by Katharine Hepburn

 (we'll return to the post when you've caught your breath)



4. Tracy Lord, The Philadelphia Story (1940), played by Katharine Hepburn



5. Jean Maitland, Stage Door (1937), played by Ginger Rogers



6. Jo Stockton, Funny Face (1957), played by Audrey Hepburn



7. Ann Mitchell, Meet John Doe (1941), played by Barbara Stanwyck



8. Blanche Hudson, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962), played by Joan Crawford



9. Margo Channing, All About Eve (1950), played by Bette Davis



10. Sylvia Fowler, The Women (1939), played by Rosalind Russell



Honorable mentions: Irene Bullock, Carole Lombard on My Man Godfrey (1936) and Crystal Allen, Joan Crawford on The Women (1939)






Males - in no particular order

1. Henry Drummond, Inherit the Wind (1960), played by Spencer Tracy



2. Father Flanagan, Boys Town (1938), played by Spencer Tracy


3. Mike Connor, The Phildelphia Story (1940), played by James Stewart
(the picture speaks for itself - Jimmy's most hilarious role)
  

4. Norman Bates, Psycho (1960), played by Anthony Perkins


5. T. R. Devlin, Notorious (1946), played by Cary Grant



6. Jerry Travers, Top Hat (1935), played by Fred Astaire



7. John Wade Prentice, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), played by Sidney Poitier


8. Rick Blaine, Casablanca (1942), played by Humphrey Bogart



9. Hynkel of Tomania, The Great Dictator (1940), played by Charlie Chaplin



10. Rhett Butler, Gone With The Wind (1939), played by Clark Gable

 


Honorable mentions: Sam Spade, Humphrey Bogart on The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Nick Charles, William Powell on The Thin Man (1934)



So long,
Marcela
  

Thursday, 22 November 2012

More Awards!

Hello my pals and gals! I am currently writing from the awe-inspiring city of Vienna, Austria and I must say it is absolutely paradise up here. From a tropical gal and a Latina like me, being in a nearly zero temperature is a blissful change. I got to see the city and a few others around here, and also meet with some friends I left behind long ago. I've been having a wonderful time.

However, I missed my favorite pals and gals, and it turns out I must tend to a very kind event that has reached my ears a while ago and I have shamefully neglected to acknowledge.

It turns out my fellow Brazilian Lê, who is a total sweetheart and quite the amazing blogger, has presented me with a "Versatile Blogger" Award. I cannot thank her enough for extending me this honor. Still, I'll try: Thank you ever so much, dear!

The rules of this award consist of posting 7 facts about one's self and then appointing 11 bloggers considered by one as worthy of this Award to do the same. Here I go!

1. I love doing things on my own.
2. Despite the fact that I don't believe (much) in horoscopes, I'm a pretty typical Taurus.
3. I believe wholeheartedly that I'm always gonna be too old and too young to do anything, so I just do what I want regardless of age.
4. My Medical School went on the longest strike of its history this year. The longest one before then was
when my father was a student. Not a very lucky family in that sense.
5. The first day I watched I Love Lucy, I watched 6 episodes in a row. By the end of the week, I knew Lucille Ball's main stats by heart.
6. I cried a little bit on the plane ride here, because my iPod was on shuffle songs mode and I inadvertently listened the audiobook of Lauren Bacall's "By Myself and Then Some", specifically the part where Gregory Peck and (gasp!) Katharine Hepburn die. I was weeping by the first minute, but it was dark, so no one saw me. I hope!
7. I didn't expect to love blogging about old movies this much.

And now onto the lucky winners:

Oh, So Very Classic - great start!
Frankly My Dear; But It Was - obviously
The Great Katharine Hepburn
Bette's Classic Movie Blog
L.A. La Land: Fame, Fortune and Forensics
A Mythical Monkey Writes About The Movies
Noir And Chick Flicks
Films of Yesterday
Hitchcock Geek
All Good Things

Lê, at Crítica Retrô, would also be worthy of this, but needless to say she doesn't have to do it again.

Anyways, this was it, pals and gals, but I hope I get to write more before I go home! See y'all soon!
So long,
Marcela

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Powerhouse Ladies: An analysis of leading women

Hello my pals and gals! I'm sorry I've been posting less and less this month, but I've been keeping myself pretty busy. Turns out I'm traveling to Europe with my family on the 16th of this month! Exciting huh? I'll be spending two weeks there but, don't worry, I won't leave you guys hanging. I have posts scheduled to go up while I'm there.
Anyway, one area of film studies that I find has been interesting me a lot lately is character analysis. It's fascinating to relate one's personal experiences and one's personal understanding of the human race to comprehend a certain character's actions or thoughts. I've been reading about character categories, the different roles a character can play in the development of a movie. In this post, I will analyze one of my favorite types of characters: The powerhouse lady.

Amanda and Adam Bonner: gender equality on Adam's Rib (1949)

I remember the first time I saw the movie "Adam's Rib" (1949). I don't remember how I got a hold of it, what led me to watch it, but I do remember it was one of the movies that made me fall in love with Katharine Hepburn. I loved how her character, Amanda Bonner, still one of my favorite movie characters ever, was so strong, so opinionated, so independent. I loved seeing her in court, defending her client with all her strength and saying the truth in such a fearless way. I couldn't help but notice the obvious feminist content, but, being a recent fan of Old Hollywood, I didn't quite realize until the end of the movie how groundbreaking that character must've been for 1949. Only about 30% of women had a job at that period. Less than 2% of lawyers were women. Of those, only 20% were married. After all the boring math is done, it turns out only 0.4% of lawyers were married women. Amanda Bonner was one of those. She was fierce, she stood up to the men and she said what she thought. But yet she wore a long black dress with red lipstick to the party and cried with her husband about their newly-purchased ranch and the "darling dogs" illustrating the landscape. They called each other "Pinky" and never failed to kiss good night. Little did I know the woman who played her was an advocate and a symbol of such lifestyle. Feminine, but not frail. 

 
   

"Feminine, but not frail" is the main premise of the powerhouse lady. The powerhouse lady fears no man - she fears no woman, either. Much like Margo Channing, Bette Davis' character on "All About Eve" (1950), right, who is a successful actress who leads her career under her own terms. The powerhouse lady is conscious of  her position as a "doer", as opposed to a "watcher" in life. Movies with a powerhouse lady usually center around her and her endeavors as a convention-defying, free-willed, independent-spirited individual. Powerhouse ladies are usually very successful in her profession, sometimes in professions that are mostly exercised by men, like in Nina Yakushova, Greta Garbo's character in "Ninotchka" (1939), left, a successful Russian government agent. However, a powerhouse lady is by no means "manly". She has usually polished and elegant looks, she is usually depicted by an attractive (I'd call Greta Garbo more than simply attractive, if you ask me) actress and is still associated with some personality traits usually credited to women. Who can forget Tess Harding, Katharine Hepburn's character in "Woman of the Year" (1942), in high heels and pin-curled hair, attracting the eyes of all the fellas in the newspaper?

Being a powerhouse lady also means being conscious of one's absolute equality to men. In fact, in movies with powerhouse ladies, one's womanhood is almost never the main subject of the movie (with Adam's Rib and another few obvious exceptions). Usually there are brief remarks about sex (it was still the 20th Century, the mentality was different), like in "Ninotchka", when the Russian agents meet Garbo on the station and one of them cracks: "What a lovely surprise, a lady comrade." Greta, very serious, answers: "I hope my womanhood won't be an issue." And, for the rest of the movie, it wasn't.

Meet John Doe: Barbara Stanwyck is a successful and
intelligent journalist. Her romantic relationship doesn't
change her powerhouse status. 

Mildred Pierce: Joan Crawford survives a
struggle on her own
The romantic relationships of a powerhouse lady are usually unaffected by their strength and independence. Sometimes, these characteristics are evidenced by the "ability to get on without a man" (still a shock before the 1960s) and some are explored in parallel with a romantic relationship. In "Meet John Doe", Barbara Stanwyck is a typical powerhouse lady: Intelligent, successful in a field so male-dominated that journalists were called newspapermen, who is bold, brave and outspoken. There is a gorgeous love angle in her relationship with Gary Cooper, but neither is he intimidated by her powerhouse status nor she feels she needs to become submissive to Cooper's character. This is an example of a romantic powerhouse lady, but there's also the option of a woman going through a struggle of a psychological, social or financial nature alone, and emerging an even stronger and self-sufficient individual. The main point of the movie is to glorify the powerhouse lady as a flawed individual who is capable of great things.

Greta Garbo, the twenty-year-old who didn't
speak English and became one of the biggest
movies stars the US has
ever seen
Powerhouse ladies are like femme fatales in their unshakable confidence and drive, but they differ from them in the sense that femme fatales do utilize their great beauty to achieve one or another advantage. Lauren Bacall's Marie "Slim" Browning from "To Have and Have Not" for instance, who used her beauty to get by in a whole new place in which she arrived alone. Had she been a powerhouse lady, she would probably get a job and be humiliatingly good at it, or fight her way to the top of her career even though there are people who are better professionals than her, or even manipulate people into helping her up the ladder. But she'd never use her beauty or her womanhood as a way to get ahead, which is just another feminist undertone to this type of character. It's important to not how groundbreaking it must've been to have this kind of character in a society still largely dominated by men.

In analyzing powerhouse ladies, one notices a pattern in actress choice. These women usually carried out lifestyles that related in one way or another with the powerhouse ladies they played. Real-life powerhouses, if you will. Greta Garbo came to the United States by herself when she was twenty years old, and, with very little English and without knowing anyone, she fought her way to the top of the acting game. She relay on her talent (and, my dear, she was talented), her perseverance and her intelligence to become who she is. Katharine Hepburn was secure enough to disregard convention and live her life under her own terms from birth to death. She cooked her own meals, changed her own tires and swept her own bedroom, always shrugging off unnecessary help. She, too, relay solely on talent, perseverance and intelligence to become who she is. Bette Davis was an outspoken,  opinionated woman, who sued her own studio, became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and, in her later years, advocated against sexual repression. She, you guessed it, relay on talent, perseverance and intelligent. These three are, to me, the three biggest representatives of real-life powerhouse ladies in Classic Hollywood.

Who is your favorite Hollywood powerhouse lady? Let me know in the comments!

So long,
Marcela






Thursday, 8 November 2012

Noirvember

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray on "Double Indemnity"

Hello, my pals and gals!

I'm here today to talk about something really interesting. "Noirvember" is nothing more than a month of November that we dedicate to film noir. I gotta say, film noir is probably my favorite movie genre, along with screwball comedy. It has everything I like: an aura of mystique and sensuality, powerful leading ladies, memorable anti-heroes, intricate crime stories and sexy flash romances. It was a very influential genre in the 40s and early 50s, but throughout the years, it has slowly diminished, to the point of becoming very nearly extinct. I don't know where the "Noirvember" trend came from, but I know it has been around the internet for a few years already. Since this is my first year in the Classic Hollywood community, I decided to jump right in. 

So, my role in Noirvember will be: First, write up a post talking a little bit about film noir (you're reading it right now), then watch 10 noir movies and finish with a collective review. I'm really excited to get further into this genre, and I picked some of the most famous and beloved noirs to feature.

Film noir was a term coined by French film critics to design a new wave of crime dramas originated in the late 1930s in Hollywood, but that didn't reach French theaters until after the Great War. Therefore, by the time the term was invented, film noir was already on its heyday in America. It's a genre largely influenced by the German Expressionism of the 1920s but some inspirations from French avant-garde are also evidenced.. The main cinematographic elements were the low-key lighting, off-center angles and shadowy atmosphere, and they were brought by foreign filmmakers who immigrated to the US. The largely used chiaroscuro, Italian word for "dark-light", increased contrast between lighter and darker areas and added to the sultry aura of film noir. It peaked in the 1940s, ending in the early 1950s, but some so-called neo-noirs have been noted since Robert Aldrich's "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955) up until the 2000s. 

Here are the noirs I will be watching this month:
1. Double Indemnity (1944) 
2. In a Lonely Place (1950)
3. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
4. Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
5. Out of the Past (1947)
6. Suspicion (1941)
7. Gilda (1946)
8. The Roaring Twenties (1939)
9. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
10. High Sierra (1941)

You all are more than welcome to join me watching your favorite noirs and talking about them! 

So long,
Marcela

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Inherit The Wind (1960)

Bet you didn't see that one coming!
Another movie review! I should really do more of these, everyone seems to like it. Now, for one of my favorite movies ever: Inherit the Wind (1960)!


I always tell my friends: "If Spencer Tracy is not your favorite actor ever, please proceed to watching Inherit the Wind." And they always tell me I'm right. 

"Inherit the Wind" is the true story of a high-school science teacher in the small town of Hillboro, Oregon, who gets arrested for teaching the Darwinian theories of evolution as opposed to the biblical theories of creation. It was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 1960, including best adapted screenplay and best actor (Spencer Tracy). Why this wasn't Spence's third Oscar I will never know. Piece of trivia: He lost to Burt Lancaster in "Elmer Gantry". I have never seen this movie, but he better have done a damn good job. 

The movie takes place in 1925. It starts with a science class, interrupted by the sudden arrest of the teacher, Bertram Cates, under the charges of teaching "ungodly material" to the youngsters. Said ungodly material happened to be the widely accepted theories of Charles Darwin, precisely his main work "The Origin of The Species Through Means of Natural Selection". It was a state law that this material should not enter classrooms. That seems pretty outrageous to me, however, the fact that it is indeed true makes the movie all the more interesting. It seems like a lost cause, but the trial catches the eye of the owner and editor of a left-wing newspaper from the big city, named E. K. Hornbeck and played charmingly by Gene Kelly. He travels to the town in an effort to further understand the case and find out what he can do to help the school teacher who, he feels, has been arrested unjustly. He arranges for the most idealistic lawyer in the country, Henry Drummond, portrayed by Spencer Tracy, to come and defend Mr. Cates from the Oregon State Prosecutor (who moonlights as religious fanatic) Mathew Brady, played by Frederick March. The movie is taken, for the most part, by the very accurate and incredibly well-staged trial of Mr. Cates, with various witnesses caught to the stand and with Drummond's arguments knocking the movie's audience right out of their seats. The highlight of the movie is when Drummond calls Brady to the stand and uses the Bible itself to debunk Brady's arguments, whose agenda was clear as a summer day. 
                                                                                                               
The star of the picture is, without a doubt, Mr. Spencer Tracy. I have an obvious bias in Spence's favor, but in this case, it is a movie with everything I'm interested in: biology, evolution and the historical feud between science and religion; despite that, Tracy's acting still managed to be the standout factor for me. If it wasn't for his passionate, true-to-life argumentation, the movie would fail to create a plausible case. 

Other factors that make this movie one of my top 10 favorites include: It's outstanding writing, that should have been awarded with the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. This is one of the most quotable movies I have ever seen, with lines such as: "Conform, conform! What do you wanna do?! Run the jury through a meat grinder and have them all come out the same?!" or  "I didn't come here to make Hillsboro different, I came here to defend his right to be different from Hillsboro." or even "The things I said to you are questions, questions you ask your own heart, they'll make them sound like answers!". The title of the movie itself is based on a quote, from the Book of Proverbs, 11:29 - "He who troubleth his own home shall inherit the wind." The aura of solemnity and gravity emanated by this quote is present throughout the entire flick, and keeps one on the edge of one's seat. 

The life-likeness of it all is breathtaking. The town population calling Drummond an "atheist" (which he wasn't) as though that was an insult, the zealous preaching of the town's pastor, emphasizing the heinous nature of the "crime" committed by Cates, and the authority and arrogance with which Brady talks about the Bible as though he himself had written it are the best examples of the plot said to be exactly like the actual story that inspired the movie. The way they talk about Christian theories as though its one's lawful duty to believe them makes me cringe, but at the same time, makes Drummond's job harder and more exciting to watch. The ending will surprise you.  

I give it five stars out of five, but I wish I could give it six. 

So long,
Marcela