Posts Tagged: scandals of classic hollywood
148

The Classiest Classic Movies I Revisited This Year

… 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.

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

Gloria Swanson wasn’t here to make friends. She wasn’t “just like us.” She didn’t take out the garbage or “wear cotton” or go to the bathroom. Lady had a gold-plated bathtub. She married a Marquis. She was 4’11,” wore a 2 ½ in shoes, and had a waist approximately the size of my neck. She looked most beautiful when frowning. And for a period in the 1920s, she was the biggest star in the world. Swanson wasn’t evil, and she probably wasn’t even a bitch, but she just knew how to run that game. She was of a different set of stars — a different breed than Garbo, Dietrich, [...]

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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: 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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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 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: Warren Beatty Thinks This Song Is About Him

Warren Beatty wasn’t your typical handsome. There was something earnest about him — something plaintive, needy — that made women want to protect him. And, of course, sleep with him. And if you know anything about Warren Beatty, it’s probably that he’s rumored to have slept with 13,000 women over the last 75 years. I call bullshit on that math, but womanizing has nevertheless become Beatty’s defining characteristic. His sister famously said he “couldn’t even commit to dinner.” Woody Allen once asked to be reincarnated as his fingertips.

But here’s the thing: for all his flirtatiousness, for all his storied ability to romance over the phone, for all his [...]

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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 [...]