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On The Real Fantasy of Downton Abbey

I quit watching in disgust at the end of season 2; I just could not take the nonsense any more. I've enjoyed a lot of things that Julian Fellowes has done (particularly his 2004 "A Most Mysterious Murder" series) but the writing here is just a joke, and makes me feel like he's laughing at the addicted viewers who take it seriously.

"Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" is mostly a lot of fun, except for the ongoing sinister subplot about the fate of her vanished sister, which gets old really really fast. They HAVE done a second series, which aired at the end of 2013 (at least in Australia); the DVD set is being released in the UK in Feb 2014, so presumably it will show up in the US by the end of the year.

Posted on January 29, 2014 at 4:02 am 0

On Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Most Kissable Hands of Pola Negri

Warning: its spelled "Rod La Rocque" - and it was his real name!

There was a DVD documentary released in 2011 "Pola Negri: Life Is A Dream In Cinema" which I liked a lot more than I expected to. She was kind of like "Garbo version 0.9", 25 when she arrived in Hollywood in 1922 to become the first Euro-superstar (Garbo arrived 3 years later, age 20).

I’ve seen that clip of the stunning musical number from “A Woman Commands” before; the scene is VERY aware of Dietrich’s big number in “Morocco” (1930), the one where she walks into the audience singing in a top hat and tails to flirt with Légionnaire Gary Cooper (and, famously, a young female).

Posted on November 15, 2013 at 4:41 am 0

On Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Ecstasy of Hedy Lamarr

@fondue with cheddar: Yes Richard Carlson, later to star as the scientist in Creature From the Black Lagoon.

There's an amusing short review of White Cargo by the inimitable Pauline Kael buried in this page

Posted on August 9, 2013 at 4:09 am 0

On Scandals of Classic Hollywood: The Exquisite Garbo

Recommended viewing: "Garbo" documentary from TCM in 2005, narrated by Julie Christie; particularly important because for the first time it contains the screen-tests of Garbo shot in 1949, which were lost for 40 years.

Recommended reading: "The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood" by Diana McLellan (2000).

Favorite film: I've seen 'em all, and its the sublime "Camille" - but projected in a theater; unfortunately most old movies have only a fraction of their true impact when viewed at home on a TV screen. Luckily I'm old enough to have seen most of her films projected in revival houses. The death-scene in "Camille" is unique in the history of cinema, and knocked people on their rears; I've been in a theater where you could quite literally feel an electric shock go through the audience, I'll never forget it.

Bette Davis: "Her instinct, her mastery over the machine [movie camera], was pure witchcraft. I cannot analyze this woman's acting. I only know that no one else so effectively worked in front of a camera."

Marie Dressler: "Garbo is lonely. She always has been and she always will be. She lives in the core of a vast aching aloneness. She is a great artist, but it is both her supreme glory and her supreme tragedy that art is to her the only reality. The figures of living men and women, the events of everyday existence, move about her, shadowy, unsubstantial. It is only when she breathes the breath of life into a part, clothes with her own flesh and blood the concept of a playwright, that she herself is fully awake, fully alive."

Associated viewing: 35-year-old Marilyn Monroe's 1962 hair/makeup/costume tests for "Something's Got To Give"; they're on YouTube in various formats.

Posted on September 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm 0