Friday, April 30, 2010

ZaSu and...Eugene?

Oh, dear...

I apologize for the lack of poetry this week.  My Uncle Gene, who will turn 86 next week, has been in the hospital...but now he's in a local rehab center and we're hoping to get him strong and healthy enough to come home soon!

Whenever I talk about the 20s and 30s, one name always comes up: ZaSu Pitts.  I honestly have no idea why he always mentions her!  One of these days I'll have to get him to educate me. 

Please keep Uncle Gene in your thoughts and prayers.  I'd appreciate it.  ^_^

Friday, April 23, 2010


Perched in the periphery
with that little urchin's face,
those yearning eyes could never rise
to shine in the top billing place...

but leading lady?  Oh, what charms!
Who didn't love Anita?
For decades long, her fame stayed strong -
¡la rubia bonita!

Anita Page

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The 2010 LAMMY Awards!

I'd be so grateful if those readers involved with LAMB would put in a vote for Silent Stanzas!

Vote here!

The LAMMY Awards!

Those of you who are involved with LAMB - put in a vote for your favorite movie blog!  (That's Flappers & Flickers, by the way.  *wink*)

Vote here!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Queen Christina (1933)

Garbo stars in this provocative and very likeable film loosely based on the life of Queen Christina of Sweden.  Christina was never cut out to be a proper woman, and lived most of her life as men did in her time; her clothes were rough, but her intellect was sharp, and she made no apologies for doing things her way.  Her father, King Gustavus, insisted that she be reared as a "prince", and his death brought her to the throne as the "Girl King". 

In time-tested Hollywood fashion, the fascinating life of the real Queen Christina is changed, creating a love interest who moves her enough to abdicate the throne.  In reality, she abdicates due to a desire to study her secret Catholic beliefs more fully.  Most of the film veers off course from this point, tailoring history to serve the bedroom-eyed Garbo and her lover, the affable and breezy John Gilbert.  She specifically requested Gilbert for this movie, and he does not disappoint.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, the fact that his career crashed and burned is one of the sorrows of cinema. 

The first half of Queen Christina is rife with lines and moments that could only have been realized in a pre-Code.   Garbo is the perfect actress for this gender-bending role, dashing off lines like this with believeable intensity and ardor:

Chancellor:  But, your Majesty, you cannot die an old maid!
Queen Christina:  I have no intention to, Chancellor.  I shall die a bachelor!

The second half of the film follows a more traditional course of hearts and flowers and romance.  But still, Garbo is strong, fiercely independent, to the last frame of the picture:

I give this one: 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tol'able Richard

When Nasimova urged him to be an actor
so long ago,
did she see Cheng Huan's tears in his eyes?

It is the way of life
for certain names to be lost in the folds of time;
his should not be one of them.

Richard Barthelmess

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coquette (1929)

Hello and welcome to another episode of "How Much Can We Overact?"  Today's contestant:  little Mary Pickford!  

Mary won the 1930 Academy Award for her performance, proving that the judges that year were heavily swayed and/or hitting the bathtub gin.  She is terrible.  Even if you take away the fact that it was her first talkie, and technology certainly wasn't up to par yet (everyone sounds like goats) was still an awful picture.  Mary is almost a caricature of herself, overcompensating for the new format with ridiculously exaggerated facial expressions and movements.  She hadn't learned "talkie" acting yet, and it shows badly.  However, her costars fare no better - a very young Johnny Mack Brown, as her star-crossed love interest, is stilted and uncomfortable - and the plot itself presents Mary as a teenaged flirt, which is a bit of a stretch (though she does try her hardest). Also, what accent was that?! 

Watch it for historical value, count how many times she purses her lips, and if you enjoy it more than I did, please let me know. 

I give this one: 

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

There is nothing I can say about this film that can express how phenomenal, how moving, how incredibly beautiful it is.  Extremely ahead of its time, foreshadowing work by Fellini; Dreyer's use of almost constant closeups is unnerving and highly effective.

Renee Falconetti gives a raw and unearthly performance as the Maid of Orleans.  This was her first and last role, and I can see why - it is emotionally destroying.  Only the fact that I was watching this at home, with its ambient distractions, kept me from dissolving completely into anguish.

To say this is highly recommended is a massive understatement.  Simply one of the best films ever made.

I give this one:


Madame X

So many years of swallowing your dreams and being smothered by Mumsie;

the doctors removed your blockage
but couldn't get it all -
perhaps because they neglected your spirit?

Your life provided much inspiration
for your tragedies - sorrow and
frustration and shattered desires...

Polly, no wonder you couldn't breathe.

Friday, April 2, 2010

His Majesty, the American

Oh Douglas Fairbanks!  Has there ever been
A name which conjures up such suave finesse?
You were like nothing else they'd ever seen,
Your wit and humor bright and effortless;
Add in your strength and athlete's nimble air
And there was born a modern Musketeer -
So likeable that even an affair
With Mary made the audiences cheer.
As Robin Hood, or Baghdad's swarthy Thief
You made a genre single-handedly,
The "costume picture" to this day is strong -
Just one part of your lasting legacy.
Through ninety years, the public you've delighted...
It wasn't only artists you united!

Douglas Fairbanks