Posts Tagged: hollywood
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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Ronald Reagan Plays the President

When you think of Ronald Reagan, you think of jellybeans, Nancy’s power suits, and self-satisfaction. You think of all the contemporary Republicans who miss him and what he seemed to represent, along with a sort of composure and telegenic presence that even Clinton couldn’t replicate. You think of trickle-down economics, Iran-Contra, and a political legacy so potent that criticizing him is in many circles still considered a moderate form of blasphemy.

What you might not think of is Reagan frolicking on the beach in white swim trunks, playing matchmaker for Bette Davis, or divorcing one of Hollywood’s sweethearts. But Reagan did all of those things — and others even [...]

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Long Suicide of Montgomery Clift

Montgomery Clift had the most earnest of faces: big, pleading eyes, a set jaw, and a side part that reminds you of old pictures of your granddad. Onscreen and off, he was what the kids these days would call “an emo” and the least generous of your friends would call a “sad sack.” If he lived in the ‘90s, he would have been king of the heartfelt mixtape. Clift played the desperate, the drunken, and the deceived, and along with Brando and Dean, heralded a new direction in cinematic masculinity. But a car crash in the prime of his career left him in constant pain, and he drank himself [...]

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Really Good Books: Scandals of Classic Hollywood Edition

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film - David Thomson. Here is where it all begins. This is no typical dictionary — it’s a huge book filled with every important star and director (and a few screenwriters and producers here and there) to make a difference in the history of the movies. But again, this isn’t typical, which is to say it isn’t boring as shit. David Thomson — a journalist and critic who's covered Hollywood for longer than I’ve been alive — not only tells you the projects that featured the star, but why the star was/remains important (or overrated, as the case may be). He’s opinionated: he doesn’t [...]

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Ava Gardner, the Second-Look Girl

Ava Gardner knew how to pose for the camera. She’d slit her eyes, throw her head at an angle, and the photographer would somehow catch something about her — not elegance or grace, exactly, but something that was strong, sexual, and almost animal, as if she were zeroing in on you, weighing your merits, and readying to pounce. And for most of the ‘40s and ‘50s, she was Hollywood’s most alluring femme fatale, an image solidified both on and off the screen.

Gardner was the youngest of eight children, raised in near-poverty in North Carolina, where she acquired a “Pure Tobacco Road South” accent and a predilection for drama. She [...]

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Gloria Swanson Saga, Part Two

When we left off, Gloria Swanson’s career was effectively over. She seemed a relic, a beautiful curio. I cannot imagine how much this must have pissed her off, but Swanson, for all of her conspicuous extravagance, was also a pragmatist — her career may have been in decline, but she still had three children and a fourth husband of dubious worth to consider.

So she did what any faded star should: She moved to New York and got in the patent business. But she did it in a roundabout sort of way, starting a company, punnily called “Multiprizes,” which, starting in 1938, made a mission of rescuing Jewish smarty-pantses [...]

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Dorothy Dandridge vs. The World

Dorothy Dandridge was a fighter.  Growing up in The Depression and making her way through Hollywood in the ‘40s, she encountered resistance — to her skin color, to her refusal to play demeaning roles — at every turn. She was assailed in the press for dating white men, and blamed herself for her husband’s philandering and her daughter’s brain damage.  Nearly every societal convention was against her. And yet she managed to make a handful of gorgeous, invigorating films — films that offer a glimpse at the superstar she would have become if the studios knew what to do with with a beautiful black woman.

Her beauty was [...]

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Marlene Dietrich, Femme Fatale

Marlene Dietrich was glamorous in a way we can’t quite understand. Like Greta Garbo, the woman to whom she is so often compared, Dietrich was otherworldly, her face a mask across which emotion flitted and fought. Her every move seemed an exercise in control, a sort of beautifully molded artifice. But Dietrich was no confection: she was a masterpiece. Her formidable sexual appeal stemmed from a stunning androgyny, and an ability to simultaneously embody the passive and the dominating, the masculine and the feminine, the demure and the suggestive. While other Hollywood stars worked to make themselves seem “Just Like Us,” Dietrich was never like us. Her slinking accent, [...]

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Exquisite Garbo

Greta Garbo did not inhabit this earth. She flitted about in the celluloid heavens, showing her face and, later, offering her voice at sporadic intervals. Her skin was flawless, the arch of her eyebrow was perfection. She was never a child, she never aged. She didn’t cry, and laughed so rarely that when it happened onscreen, the studio focused entire publicity campaigns around it.

She was never Greta; she was always Garbo. And she must be seen — projected, larger-than-life, on the big screen — to be believed.

Garbo is one of the remaining enigmas of Hollywood history: did she love men? Women? Both? Did she turn her back [...]

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: That Divine Gary Cooper

Let’s talk straight: there was no cowboy handsomer than Gary Cooper. John Wayne had the sneer, and Gene Autry had the voice, but no one smoldered quite like Cooper. In his early films, he was glamour on a horse: his eyes lined, his face powdered, yet somehow right at home in the saddle — in part because unlike so many city-boys-turned-screen-cowboys, he grew up in Montana, one of the last veritable frontiers of the early 20th century. Over his 30 years in Hollywood, he would play variations on the cowboy — the cowboy goes to war, the cowboy goes to the city — but in each turn, he not only [...]

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Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Passion of Laurence Olivier

In the early '40s, Laurence Olivier had everything going for him: he was widely regarded as one of the two best actors to ever grace the British stage, his film career had been set aflame by startling performances in Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, and his gorgeous wife, Vivien Leigh, had just pulled off Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. He was also at the apex of his career as a stone-cold fox. And as half of the “first couple” of Britain, he was the closest that a born-and-raised Brit would get to bona fide Hollywood stardom. He and Leigh lived in flagrant sin, still married to other people, [...]