Today marks the 92nd birthday of actress and screen legend Lauren Bacall. She passed in 2014, just a month shy of her 90th birthday.
I don't often post pics of Bacall because stills never seem to capture her quite right, in my opinion. I can't really think of any other actress who strikes me exactly that way, but I've long since quit trying to find the "right" picture of someone who was lovely as a picture, sure, but who's voice and nuances of expression were what made her work so very well in movies.
August 11th marks the 114th birthday of actress Norma Shearer, an actress of the Golden Age of Hollywood. I've seen a few of her movies, both silent and talkies, and she was a remarkably talented woman.
Yesterday Ms. Lynda Carter turned 65. Happy Birthday to our ideal Wonder Woman.
Some folks may not know that Carter is a vocalist with several albums out there in the ether. Carter is currently performing with a band where she sings both original songs and some covers. She also appears as voice talent in several videogames, including Fallout 4, where she contributed a song or two as a lounge singer.
Bette Davis passed in 1989, leaving behind a legacy of terrific film roles in a wide array of genres. I'm quite fond of Davis, and when watching her, sometimes wonder if there would be a place for her in Hollywood of 2016. I don't think she'd find much to do in movies - maybe she'd be an indie darling. I do think she'd reign supreme over a critically beloved, poorly rated cable TV series that would run for 7 years or so.
Curious about Davis - she seemed to know she wasn't a Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner, and unlike he Hollywood rival, Joan Crawford, seemed fine with status as a different kind of female star, someone whose appeal stemmed from, yes, the famous eyes, but also the spirit with which she infused her characters. She always worked harder and fought harder, usually dictating her own terms behind the scenes.
I've lost track of how many times I've seen Gun Crazy (1950). And, in fact, over the past ten years its easily become one of my favorite movies. Tuesday night JAL and I met up at the Alamo to catch a screening which was, it turned out, part of a series the Alamo was doing about social issues in movies. And, of course, Gun Crazy is as good an example of how a good gun owner gets sucked into the issues of a bad gun owner as you're like to see.
The screening was either sold out or nearly so, which, even in a small theater at The Alamo on a Tuesday at 7:30 - for a movie that's now 66 years old - is a pretty good thing. What was truly surprising was that the screening was of a 35mm print struck in the 1960's, as near as I could tell.
Happy Birthday to actress Sherilyn Fenn. She's been great in some great movies and good in some bad movies and I was as stunned as the next person to see her combatting Bigfoot in the accurately titled 2012 SyFy/ Asylum movie, Bigfoot.
You may know her as Audrey Horne from cult TV series, Twin Peaks, making sweaters and saddle shoes a very good idea to high-school-me.
I am thrilled to say it seems she's returning to the role when the show returns late this year or early next year.
Today marks the 92nd birthday of actress Gloria Grahame.
We're big fans of the work of Ms. Grahame here at The Signal Watch, and seeing her listed in the credits for a movie will always get us to check it out. We generally prefer her noir work, where she plays a wide range of roles, but always with a certain flair. We particularly recommend her work in The Big Heat, Human Desire and In a Lonely Place.
But, she's also Ado Annie in Oklahoma! and she's Violet in It's a Wonderful Life.
Her personal life was like an unscripted noir that ignored the Hayes Code, but I'll let you look into that yourself. What I will say is that she died too young, and I wish she'd had a second go with her career. She's so darn good, it's hard to believe she wouldn't have ended up doing more on TV or in movies.
Here's to one of the good ones. Do yourself a favor and take time out for a Gloria Grahame picture this month.
I have tried to watch Now, Voyager (1942) for years, and something always happens. Well, the opposite of "something always happens" happened, and I accidentally ordered a Bette Davis 4-disc set from Amazon, which I was considering buying and accidentally did so while buying something else.
So, since the movie showed up, I gave it a whirl.
There's no question the movie is dated by any number of factors, from the club-like effectiveness of psychiatry to the social customs present in the movie. And it's certainly a movie of war-time America, not in content, but who appears in the film (there's a shortage of name actors playing men of fighting age).
The movie belongs to Bette Davis, there's absolutely no question. And that was what I paid my $2.50 for. I may not have been the target audience for a "woman's picture", but I knew what it was, to an extent, going in. I'm trying to shore up some gaps in my movie knowledge, and I haven't seen that many Bette Davis movies, and this is one of the big ones.
You know, I probably like Joan Crawford more than your average straight dude born in 1975. Thanks to Faye Dunaway's performance in Mommy Dearest, the Joan Crawford of legend has superseded the Joan Crawford who shows up in her movies. But watching those movies, you can see why folks decided maybe Joan was a little on the intense side. And, her personal reputation as one tough lady did nothing to soften that edge (look up her rise within PepsiCo some day. Absolutely bad-ass.).
To get real, Joan Crawford was a great beauty in the 20's and 30's when she hit Hollywood, and as she aged, maybe some of that slipped on her. She remained attractive, but there's only so attractive someone can be when anger seems to their default setting, and you can see it set in somewhere in their resting face. Here's where this boomerangs back - because Joan Crawford said "screw you, I'm still playing the sexy dame in middle-age", and did not just disappear into motherly, unsexed roles - and it kind of flips back on itself that the iron will in there somewhere is attractive all on its own.
Probably the first Joan Crawford movie I saw was Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, which is a crazy movie to start to get to know Crawford. I love that movie, and she's great in it, but Mildred Pierce, which I saw next, is still my favorite Crawford movie. She's so damn good in it, and it's such a weirdly excellent movie for a movie about a lady making pies.
It turns out Possessed (1947) is sort of Yin to the Yang that is Mildred Pierce. And I have new second favorite Joan Crawford movie (move over, Johnny Guitar). It's not a mother and daughter coming up together in a tough world with lay-abouts for men and fried chicken joints as cash cows. It's a woman on her own, trying to find love, witha complicated relationship with her step daughter. Oh, and she has schizophrenia.
At some point in your life, set aside 1 hour and 10 minutes to make it through Detour (1945), one of the grimiest, most uncomfortable, brilliantly economical movies you're likely to ever catch. It's a short bit of distilled noir which kind of meanders for the first third, and then it starts to pick up. And THEN Ann Savage shows up and holy @#$%.
I don't know what it says about me that I adore Ann Savage in this movie. There's some matrix I need to devise of "what's wrong with me?" that I need to make with attributes of various Femme Fatales, including Savage in this movie, Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy, Stanwyck in Double Indemnity and Babyface, Marie Windsor in everything... But Ann Savage is a special kind of nuts in this movie, that veers almost into noir Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf-ish territory sometime in the back 1/3rd of the movie.
March 23rd marks the birthday of Joan Crawford. She would have been 110 yesterday.
Complicated person, that Joan Crawford. I tend to really like her in movies, and I think I've shared here and elsewhere how much I like Mildred Pierce, in particular (but who doesn't)? Johnny Guitar is also worth a view if you want to see something out there on the edge of genre and expectation.
Happy b-day to a daughter of The Alamo City and one of the greats.
Williams was a youth swimming champ, and - at least according to IMDB - was discovered by one of those talent scouts who was always plucking counter girls and girls at Schwab's enjoying a malted and turning them into movie stars.