Pola Negri looked like something from a storybook: she had jet black hair, pale skin that reporters compared to a camellia blossom, and a sensual mouth that, painted bright red, read as something deep and mournful onscreen. She was Polish by birth and Hollywood’s first foreign import; the Czar of Russia once said she had “the most kissable hands in the world.” To American audiences, she was exoticism manifest: an amalgamation of connotations that added up to different, not us. That exoticism was fiercely appealing—five years before Negri came to Hollywood, it had made Theda Bara into a massive star, at least until the public figured out the creature who had [...]
Maybe you’ve never heard of Barbara Stanwyck. She certainly isn’t the first star that comes to mind when you think of classic Hollywood. Ask for a screwballer and I’ll say Katharine Hepburn; ask for a drama queen and I’ll give you Bette Davis. Other stars had more active love lives, more stunning faces, more Oscars, more drama. But then ask me for my favorite films, and Stanwyck’s all over the place, lilting into scenes, making me fall off my chair laughing and/or crying, riding “all the way down the line” in, let’s just be honest here, the best film noir that isn’t Sunset Boulevard. She averaged five films a [...]
Did you hear Anne Helen Petersen's "Scandals of Classic Hollywood" series is becoming a book of the same name in the summer of 2014, via Plume/Penguin, and that it'll contain all new material (but some of the same stars), and that it'll sleep with every book its covers touch until eventually it marries the book it has an out-of-wedlock pamphlet with, despite that other book's being secretly (or not-so-secretly) ____, and that after a horrific (or, to some, glorious) ____ing incident it'll live out the rest of its days in _____? And that its jacket is made of a thousand miniature ____s, dipped in ___? I know!
In the meantime, [...]
… for free, or near-free, via Amazon Prime.
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Gary Cooper, I forgot what an endearing dolt you are in this movie. I forgot how sheepish you look when hungover and rumpled. Jean Arthur, I forgot how snippy and delightful you could be, and how great all the Vermont jokes are. I forgot that I could actually stomach a Frank Capra film, and even like it. And full-length silk man-pajamas, sweet lord, I forgot how hot you could be.
The first time audiences saw Hedy Lamarr, she was running naked through a field. The second time they saw her, she was in the throes of a very animated orgasm. The next time she appeared on screen—more than five years later—she’d have a new name, a new language, and a new image, but the effect was the same: just the sight of her was enough to stop Hollywood, and audiences across America, in their tracks.
But a new name wasn’t enough to distance Hedy Lamarr from her past as the “Ecstasy Girl,” the star of the so-called “art film” that scandalized all of Europe, and received special denunciation by the [...]
Errol Flynn was that guy — that one guy, we all know them — who was too handsome for his own good. Early on, he figured out what his looks could do for him, and he rode that wave to various destinations. He was a textbook womanizer, an astoundingly successful player — a lech, a cad, a rake, and any number of other British-sounding adjectives that describe the combination of sexual appetite and the charisma required to feed it. When I look at him, I’m simultaneously repulsed and seduced: I know exactly the kind of guy he is, the compliments he’d offer, how he’d make every girl feel unique. What [...]
"In the earliest days of cinema, little information was available. Audiences just talked about how well the actor was able to convey what was happening in the story with few subtitles and no sound. “Was he a good actor?” was another way of asking “Did the movie make sense?” The names of the performers were inconsequential. Soon, however, audiences began to construct a sort of makeshift continuity between pictures: The girl in that film, for example, is the same actor as the girl in that other film. To ascribe some sort of coherence, fans began writing to studios, requesting the names of the “players,” as they were then called." —The [...]
Robert Redford still does it for me. He did it for me when I first saw him in Butch Cassidy, he did it for me when he was washing Meryl Streep’s hair in Out of Africa. He did it for me in uniform in The Way We Were and with full hippie beard in Jeremiah Johnson. He’s classically handsome — the type of handsome on which you, your mom, your grandmother, and your best gay friend can all agree — with a flatness of expression that morphs sardonic when you least expect it. He has a storytime voice, the perfect level of tan, and haphazardly spaced highlights that betray [...]
"The Battle of Bobbed Hair: Photoplay Magazine has made a national investigation of the problem to help you make up your mind. Read what they all say, pro and con. Weigh it carefully and then let your conscience decide." —A battles for the ages. Anne Helen Petersen found this and many more SHOCKING headlines from Classic Hollywood to tide us over until she reveals her next "Scandal."
Theodosia Goodman grew up in Cincinnati, the child of middle-class Jewish immigrants. Her father was a tailor; her mother kept house. She went to high school, she went to two years of college. She was a middling actress with middling looks, age 30, stuck in the Yiddish theater circuit, with a bit role in the occasional film. She was wholly unremarkable — one of hundreds of women working toward the same end.
And then, in 1915, totally out of nowhere, she became THE BIGGEST SEX SYMBOL IN THE WORLD. As the star of A Fool There Was, she embodied the cinematic “vamp” — the evil, predatory woman who seduces [...]