Thursday, October 15, 2015

R.I.P. Joan Leslie - The Girl Next Door

R.I.P. Joan Leslie (January 26, 1925 - October 12, 2015)

Joan Leslie, who made an impact in such classic films as “High Sierra” (1941) with Humphrey Bogart and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942) with James Cagney, has died. She was 90 years old. Her death was first reported on October 15, 2015, but she passed on October 12. Born Joan Brodel, the actress was discovered by a talent scout while performing on stage with her two sisters. She was first signed to MGM, but later signed with Warner Brothers. Joan was only in her teens when she appeared in “High Sierra” and then “Sergeant York” with Gary Cooper. In fact, she celebrated her 17th birthday during the filming of “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Her other films include “The Sky’s The Limit” (1943) with Fred Astaire, and the all star films “Thank Your Lucky Stars” (1943) and “Hollywood Canteen” (1944). In 1946, Joan Leslie had become dissatisfied with the limited supporting roles she was being placed in by Warners, and sued to get out of her contract. Jack Warner was influential enough to keep her from obtaining work at the other major studios, so she worked in low budget films at Eagle-Lion and Republic Pictures. Many of her films for these studios were westerns, so she remains popular with western movie fans.

Joan married William G. Caldwell, a physician, in 1950, and her roles in movies became less frequent, as she chose to spend more time at home raising her twin daughters. Along with her acting career, Joan was also involved in a business designing clothes, and did extensive charity work for the St Anne’s Maternity Home. When her husband died in 2000, she founded the Dr. William G. and Joan L. Caldwell Chair in Gynecologic Oncology for the University of Louisville. Joan died of natural causes in Los Angeles. Source:

Joan Leslie: “The Girl Next Door”: Joan Leslie was Warners’ ingenue in residence, a pretty and perky actress with a pleasant demeanor who photographed well, could sing and dance when called for, and could emote effectively against the likes of Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart.

Every studio had at least one actress under contract who personified the wholesome, all–American girl next door, Jeanne Crain at Fox or Anne Shirley at RKO. As far as Jack Warner was concerned,
he expected Joan’s private life to be just as sweet and squeaky clean as her screen persona. And then when she had the nerve to defy him, he, in effect, grounded her—by making sure that no other studio would hire her. Joan ultimately got the last laugh by leaving show business in the 1950s and enjoying a successful marriage.

After "High Sierra," Joan’s next appearance was in a rarely seen short subject called "Alice in Movieland" (1941), produced by Jack Warner, Jr., and directed by Jean Negulesco. Joan played a starry-eyed miss on her way to Hollywood. When an assistant director berates her, she gives him a solid tongue lashing, which the director sees as the emotional fire of a great actress. She then gets a starring role and wins an Academy Award before waking up from her dream. Joan remembered it as a delightful story that she had fun performing.

Prior to leaving for New York on a publicity tour, Jack Warner advised her, “I don’t want to see you smoking or drinking.” At a lavish studio party honoring visiting Army dignitaries, she was accidentally put next to Hollywood’s leading womanizer, Errol Flynn. “How do you do, Joan?” he asked. “I’m afraid we never met.” In the room, which was brimming with photographers, it was only a matter of time before someone took notice of Joan’s encounter with Flynn. “Cameras went off and flashed pictures of us smiling at each other in a most cordial, but rather formal way,” Joan recalled. “And in no time at all, a publicity man, of which there were an enormous number at that time, came in and separated us, and pulled Flynn off one way and pulled me off another way. Then I heard that the pictures were killed.”

Joan’s hard work paid off with her first leading lady role in "The Great Mr. Nobody" (1941), an amusing B co-starring Eddie Albert as an accident-prone reporter. Warners thought they worked so well together that they were paired up two more times, in "The Wagons Roll at Night" (1941) and "Thieves Fall Out" (1941).

"The Wagons Roll at Night" also is interesting for its subliminal incestuous themes that seem to be evident in Bogart’s character. His jealousy over the relationship between his sister (Joan Leslie) and the lion tamer smacks more of the spurned lover than the protective older sibling.

Then Warner finally saw to it that Joan appeared in a production of the level of "High Sierra." She was chosen to appear opposite Gary Cooper in "Sergeant York" (1941), director Howard Hawks’ stirring biography of World War I hero Alvin York. The movie, in which York served as technical advisor, began with a look at his early years as a Tennessee farm boy before moving on to his military service career. Joan played Gracie, the backwoods girl he romances and later marries. Their original script was penned with Hawks’ original choice, Jane Russell, in mind, and depicted Gracie as something of a sexpot.

Also successful was "The Male Animal" (1942), the film version of James Thurber’s topical stage comedy that used football and campus politics to parody government. Joan played Olivia de Havilland’s kid sister whose biggest concern is keeping a hulking quarterback (Don DeFore) away from the campus vamp, nicknamed “Hot Garters.” Joan’s role was small and undemanding.

As Mary Cohan in "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942), Warners’ flag-waving musical, Joan was required to age roughly thirty years over the course of one hundred and twenty-six minutes. "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was essentially the typical Hollywood musical biography of the ’40s. The difference in this case was James Cagney’s exuberant performance, the high point of his career. The movie opened with Cohan meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a device that opened the door for a flashback tour of Cohan’s life. The movie was Warners’ first attempt to do a big-budget musical since its Busby Berkeley extravaganzas of the early to mid–1930s. Joan was nicely spotlighted in several numbers, including “She’s the Warmest Baby in the Bunch” and “Mary.” Bosley Crowther raved that Joan was “excellent as Mrs. George M. Cohan” in The New York Times.

Publicists generally found Joan to be unusual among the crop of starlets and glamour girls that populated Hollywood at the time. Joan still lived with her parents and her sisters in their Toluca Lake home, and as such seemed uncorrupted by the many temptations of Hollywood. Her off hours were spent palling around with Jeanne Cagney, whom she met on the set of "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and Jane Withers. In keeping with her wholesome image, Joan was not prone to hitting the night spots frequently or wearing a lot of makeup. On-screen, though, she yearned for the glamour girl treatment her contemporaries, like Alexis Smith and Faye Emerson, were receiving. —"The Women of Warner Brothers: The Lives and Careers of 15 Leading Ladies" (2001) by Daniel Bubbeo

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mr. Robot "I forgot to remember to forget"

 During New York Comic Con, Rami Malek and Christian Slater talked about what it was like to get into the mind of a man in deep psychosis, and how doing so was so crucial.

"As much research as I did on hacker culture and trying to identify with that, I did way more on the psychological aspect of that: mental health, mental illness," Malek told WhoSay. "As technically accurate as we are with all the computer stuff, we wanted to be as accurate with the illness and the emotions." "It takes away that sense and feeling of being alone," Slater explained. "That's another responsibility of our industry, to shed light on certain things and expose it and just remind people that [they're] not unusual." People go through things. You're not alone. "Everybody is still trying to achieve something for better or worse, to try to persevere, to be as hopeful as they can," Malek said. "Hopefully this show gives everybody more of the power to do that." Source:

When it comes to character arcs, some of the interesting developments we are going to see are going to be with Portia, who plays Angela. “At some point I felt I was almost making a different movie,” said Doubleday. “It’s fun to play a character that is corrupted so slowly.” The character of Angela has definitely gone in a new direction.

Rami Malek explained that with Elliot, “His major struggle is that he’s alone in life and just wants to connect with human beings.” We expect to see that as a continuing theme in season two. In some ways, Angela and Elliot’s stories parallel each other. Both want to connect with others and are corrupted in different ways. Angela wants to become part of society while Elliot wants to destroy it. Source:

Rami Malek ("Real Wild Child") video. Songs "Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues" & "I'm gonna love you too" by Buddy Holly, "Real Wild Child" by Iggy Pop and "I forgot to remember to forget" by Elvis Presley.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

National Sickness (Lou Reed's music), Mr. Robot (Season 2 will be darker)

“If I was restricted to me, it’d get very dull for me. I create a character—and that may or may not apply to me.” —Lou Reed.

For Lou Reed, Shelley Albin was like a prism, an effect Lou later wrote about in “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” It was Lou’s first great love.“People say "I’ll Be Your Mirror" was for Nico, but that’s my conversation with him,” Shelley said: “Lou was a romantic at heart, a total romantic in the sense that Byron was a romantic.” But Shelley didn’t want to be a part of Lou’s artistic persona or take part in the real-life stories behind his increasingly sordid material. “People would always say, ‘Oh, you’re his muse,’ and I would say, ‘Thanks. I’d rather not be.’” Nevertheless, Shelley became the basis for numerous songs over the course of Lou’s early career ("Pale Blue Eyes," "I Can't Stand It").

"White Light, White Heat" is poststructuralist rock par excellence. In its anarchic harmonic structure, the fragmentary splicing that exposes the multitrack recording, and its polysemous lyrics, the album mirrors the horrors of urban life—a rupturing of the physical self, and ultimately the mind—in a thwarted path to fulfillment. Like gestalt psychology, it operated on the fragmentary nature of consciousness in a fractured world that was becoming increasingly incoherent. “Here She Comes Now” concludes the A-side, lulling the listener into a false sense of security. On the flip side, it all gets turned upside down, reaching a psychosomatic climax with “I Heard Her Call My Name,” the most chaotic track the Velvets ever recorded. At once a metaphor for orgasm—“I heard her call my name, and then my mind split open”—the “call” brings the user back from rapture to reality while reconstituting the wall between the self within and the external world without. What was Lou searching for? Spiritual enlightenment, ecstasy, mind-numbing bliss, love? It would be decades before he truly found his mainline, and it didn’t come from the barrel of a hypodermic needle. Shelley would always remain the Daisy Buchanan of his misspent youth.

Then Lou met Bettye Kronstad, who actually had pale blue eyes. They had little in common but floated in the same concentric social circles. Though Bettye had auditioned to be a dancer for the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, they eventually met through Lincoln Swados, who since leaving Syracuse was in dire straits. Swados had attempted suicide, jumping in front of a subway train. As fate would have it, one day, Lou and Bettye’s hospital visits coincided. Bettye instantly caught his eye when they met in the hallway; Lou approached from behind, concealing heart palpitations behind braggadocio and swagger. “Hey you,” he said. “You’re beautiful. Turn around.” She looked at him, startled. Lincoln persuaded Bettye that Lou’s macho posturing concealed the fragile ego of a “nice guy” within. Lou agreed to meet Bettye near her apartment at the West End. “He was a gentleman, and he insisted upon walking me back.” Lou would take the Long Island Rail Road into the city, or Bettye would take it out to Freeport; they were madly in love. “He was kind of lost. He was a serious, reflective, almost teddy bear kind of a man. He was a sweetheart, but fame does awful things to people.” Lou and Bettye got engaged. After a year of living with Lou’s parents and saving, the couple found a studio apartment on Seventy-Eighth Street between First Avenue and East End Drive. Lou dedicated “Perfect Day” to Bettye, immortalizing a summer night early on in their romance. In early January, 1972, Lou and Bettye got married in their apartment on Seventy-Third Street.

Lou Reed was simultaneously East and West Berlin. He was at that moment a symptom of a national sickness. Berlin traded the tragicomic sarcasm of Transformer for a decidedly tragic narrative arc. With Bettye gone, Lou upped his Scotch and speed intake. Days later, he partied all night in Amsterdam, and while appearing the next night in Brussels, he collapsed onstage, narrowly averting an overdose.

Revisiting the ugliness of relationships from a position of unprecedented emotional stability, Lou adopted a critical distance in Ecstasy that allowed for penetrating insights into everything that had once gone wrong in the morass of romantic dysfunction. It was rock therapy. Lou’s ecstatic vision anatomized non-cathartic feelings—paranoia, jealousy, disgust, regret—as they came into conflict with rapture and love.On “Paranoia Key of E,” Lou enumerated a kind of DSM synesthesia—“mania’s in the key of B, psychosis in the key of C”—The eighteen-minute “Like a Possum” returns to the licentious territory of “Heroin,” with Lou recalling “playing possum” with a spiritual death.

Lester Bangs described Lou Reed as having “nursing-home pallor” and a “rusty bug eye” as he drank off the shakes. “I take drugs just because in the 20th century in a technological age living in the city there are certain drugs you have to take just to keep yourself normal,” Lou told Lester in a moment of uncharacteristic frankness. —"Dirty Blvd.: The Life and Music of Lou Reed" (2015) by Aidan Levy

Created and written by Sam Esmail, “Mr. Robot” follows social anxiety-riddled, bug-eyed Elliot (Rami Malek) as he entertains paranoid delusions of being followed (or is that really happening?) and pontificates on the evils of capitalism, the disparity between rich and poor, the disappointment of fallen heroes, and corporations that are ruining the world. Source:

Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail took to the stage at New York Comic Con on Friday, October 9th with the entire core cast including Rami Malek, Carly Chaikin, Portia Doubleday, Christian Slater and Martin Wallström. Esmail also pointed out that Season 2, which will have 10 episodes like the first season, will explore elements of the history between Darlene, Elliot and their father, as well as what he called “the precursor to how fsociety was formed.” Said Esmail, “For me in doing this show what’s cool is I don’t want you to just want to know what happens next. I want you to want to know what happened before. “

When pressed to give one word that would set the tone for Season 2, Esmail said ominously, “Dark. It gets really f---ing dark.” Malek added that Esmail told him the new season is "going be tough. It’s going be harder than last season.” The star then asked Esmail if Elliot would get another love interest. Esmail’s response? A vague but provocative “interesting question…” Source:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Neon Demon, Mr. Robot's Demon

“One morning I woke up and realized I was both surrounded and dominated by women,” Refn says on his decision to write a female-driven genre film. “Strangely, a sudden urge was planted in me to make a horror film about vicious beauty. After making Drive and falling madly in love with the electricity of Los Angeles, I knew I had to return to tell the story of The Neon Demon.”

In the film the character of Jesse is played by Elle Fanning, whom Refn calls “a powerhouse of talent” and “absolutely amazing.” The 17-year-old is said to become enveloped by a clutch of vapid LA women who resort to voodoo and cannibalism as a way to harvest her beauty.

We don’t know specifically who else has been assigned roles in that hideous clique. However, as the remainder of the ensemble includes former Refn player Christina Hendricks, who took charge as Mad Men‘s self-appointed matriarch, we’d hazard a guess and say: she’s probably involved in the madness. The Hunger Games Jena Malone and Dark Shadows‘ Bella Heathcote round out the main female complement. Source:

Mr. Robot #4 "Daemons" was blanketed in vagueness and open for interpretation, taking us on a journey to figure things out for ourselves while also not putting too much stress on getting those answers. What first seemed like a show solely about paranoid Elliot and his hacker adventures is quickly becoming a spotlight on fringe lifestyles. We'll start with Elliot, whose increase in snorting pain powder quickly spiraled into full-blown physical dependency after he broke his rule of moderation during a particularly stressful period of responsibility with changing the world. "Daemons" became the druggie dry-out episode as Elliot was thrown into a hotel room to exorcise his demons and went on one hell of a mental adventure.

He obviously has an unrequited thing for Angela that's been put to the side since the pilot in favor of hooking him up with Shayla, he's repressing his childhood because his dad died and his relationship with his mother was awful, and the dreamy imagery backed all that up. Source:

The cast and creative team sat down at New York Comic Con to shed what little light they could on the series’ much-anticipated season 2. “I was just driving over here with [creator Sam Esmail] trying to pick his brain, and he wouldn’t reveal much because that’s Sam,” said Rami Malek, who stars as perpetually-hoodied hacker Elliot Alderson.

“He did say ‘get ready.’ And I said ‘what do you mean?’ And he said ‘it’s going to be rough.’ I’m thinking, how much rougher can it possibly get? He just looked at me and said ‘it’s going to get worse.'” Mr. Esmail, for his part, was as tight-lipped as Mr. Malek described, but he did offer up an idea of what to expect while answering the only issue I had with Mr. Robot‘s first season: why would anyone stay so loyal to Elliot, while he is so obviously mentally unstable.

“You have to think about what all the members of fSociety’s intentions are. They want to cause this awful, catastrophic event. They’re not the most balanced folks either,” Mr. Esmail told me. “But we’re going to explore that in season 2. We’re going to look at why they are following this leader who is a little off.” Source:

Angela is ambitious but lacks confidence, savvy but lacks technological skills. She relies on her childhood friend and colleague, Elliot Alderson, for assistance in critical situations -- in both business and her personal life. Angela’s mother died when she was young, from cancer which developed after her exposure to toxic chemicals at a factory owned by Evil Corp. She has a strong relationship with her father, Don, though events at Allsafe begin to strain their relationship. As Angela navigates corporate politics, Don worries that his daughter approaches moral compromise.

As a senior network technician for cyber security firm Allsafe, Elliot protects corporate clients — including the ubiquitous Evil Corp. As a vigilante hacker, he monitors the people in his daily life and protects those he’s close to from their own flaws. Originally from Washington Township, New Jersey, Elliot now lives alone on the Lower East Side. He suffers from crippling anxiety, which stems from memories of his difficult childhood. His father died when Elliot was young, and his now-estranged mother was brutally cruel. Elliot has spent most of his adult life isolated from the world around him.

With the arrival of Mr. Robot, Elliot’s world changes entirely. Fsociety’s members and mission offer him a renewed purpose leaving him faced with the question of whether to numbly continue the life he knows or risk everything and participate in Mr. Robot’s revolution. Source:

“I think I watched Taxi Driver more than any film I did in preparation for Mr. Robot,” Malek revealed. “I was enthralled by [Travis Bickle] and it’s such an iconic movie. De Niro did something so revolutionary with that character. He embraces a guy who was on the fringes of society and made him relatable — humanized him. That’s something we’ve aspired to do with a lot of the characters on this show and something I really work hard at doing with Elliot.” Source:

In Martin Scorsese's 1976 film Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro plays a mentally unstable Vietnam veteran, Travis Bickle, who drives a cab and fantasizes about a beautiful blonde who works at a political campaign headquarters. In his unbalanced state of mind, the taxi driver figures that his assassination of a presidential candidate would really make him somebody in the eyes of the world and of his fantasy object. As the film unfolds, he becomes increasingly depressed at the sleaze and degradation around him and anoints himself the defender of a teenaged prostitute, Iris. -"Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier" (2012) by Brad Steiger

Monday, October 05, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Carole Lombard!

Happy Anniversary, Carole Lombard! Born Jane Alice Peters (6 October 1908, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA - 16 January 1942, Table Rock Mountain, Nevada). She was nicknamed: The Profane Angel, The Hoosier Tornado and The Queen of Screwball Comedy.

Blonde, beautiful and spirited, Carole Lombard was, and still is to some, the finest satirical comedienne the screen has ever known, the embodiment of screwball comedy, the queen of the genre. A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, she was a working actress by 1929. A stint with Mack Sennett, the acknowledged "king of comedy" during the silent era, taught her the impeccable timing which was at the heart of her comedic genius.

In 1934, a golden opportunity arose for her: She took a trip on a train with the great John Barrymore, who was once quoted as saying that Lombard was one of the greatest actresses he had ever worked with. Under the guidance of producer/director Howard Hawks and with a great script by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, Twentieth Century (Columbia, 1934) had scored big at the box office and made Carole Lombard a star. Though the blonde star mixed drama and comedy and did both with equal skill, the screwball comedy became her signature genre.

Her films include Hands Across the Table (1935) and The Princess Comes Across (1936), both from Paramount and co-starring Fred MacMurray, My Man Godfrey (Universal, 1936) and Mr. and Mrs. Smith (RKO, 1941), a cross-section of the genre. Ernst Lubitsch directed Carole Lombard in her last film To Be or Not to Be (United Artists, 1942).

In his book Screwball - Hollywood's Madcap Romantic Comedies, Ed Sikov quotes director Mitchell Leisen describing the effect Lombard had on MacMurray: "Carole was a great help to Fred. She'd get him down on the floor and sit on his chest and say, "Now be funny, Uncle Fred, or I'll pluck your eyebrows out." -"The Art of the Screwball Comedy: Madcap Entertainment from the 1930s to Today" (2013) by Doris Milberg

During her time under Pathé contract, Lombard adopted the salty vocabulary of a dockworker, and according to her brother Fred Peters, she did it deliberately as a way to level the playing field with the men then in charge, most of whom were wolves at the least, with some unashamed sexual predators thrown in. In short, she intended harsh language to shut down unwanted advances and she wore it like a suit of armor. Her friend Jill Winkler once asked Lombard about the swearing. Carole replied, “Oh, that’s not me swearing, honey. That’s Carole Lombard. Jane Peters would never dream of using language like that.” Carole believed that Jane Peters couldn’t hold her own in Hollywood, whereas brash Carole Lombard could. As she once admitted in an interview, and it was a telling statement, “I try to be what people want me to be.”

Carole counted among her lovers in the early Paramount days a young scriptwriter named Preston Sturges, who had done the screenplay for one her pictures, Fast and Loose (1930). The highly intelligent, well-to-do, 10-years-older Sturges fit Lombard’s bill, as did fading publishing mogul Horace Liveright, 25 years her senior, with whom she had a short liaison before Paramount dismissed him. Said Lombard, “I rapidly outgrew even older boys and gradually my escorts became men. Mature men. They were the only ones who could talk my language....”

Carole appeared in a few light comedy features before stepping up to an “A” or major studio picture called Man of the World, starring one of the hottest leading men in Hollywood, William Powell. Sparks flew between Lombard and Powell from the first rehearsals, and a healthy infatuation catapulted them to the nearest bedroom. He was almost 40; she was 22, making pictures by day and playing the field by night, and determined not to marry. “I think marriage is dangerous,” she told him. “It spoils beautiful friendships that might have lasted for years.”

Anchored by a magnificent Paramount Pictures contract negotiated by his Hollywood superagent, Myron Selznick, Powell had the means to woo Lombard, and he didn’t kid around with that wooing. Soon, she learned the true power of the mature man, if not with the imported perfume or the diamond encrusted jade cigarette case, then surely with the Cadillac for Christmas. She tried to tell him: Sex was fine, but couldn’t they agree to leave marriage out of the discussion?

She was cast with Powell again in another romantic drama, this one called Ladies’ Man. The fact that the young ingénue and the older sophisticate were now constant companions and obvious bedmates earned space in fan magazines and newspaper columns. The wedding took place at the end of June 1931, and the happy couple sailed off for a Hawaiian honeymoon. And then things went to hell right away. Suddenly, Bill and Carole were no longer workplace comrades with a standing date for lunch. Just after popular melodrama queen Kay Francis followed William Powell’s path from Paramount to Warner Bros. because she sensed payroll might not be met, Paramount went bankrupt.

Lombard, then a modest star but hardly a household name, was saved from unemployment only by the new ironclad contract that Myron had just negotiated for her. Paramount started shopping her around town to see if another studio wanted to assume her contract, but the attachment of a shark like Myron Selznick to Lombard’s name assured lukewarm interest. She ended up on a one-shot loan-out at the Columbia studios on nearby Gower Street and portrayed a hooker in a risqué pre-Code drama called Virtue (1932), which co-starred Mayo Methot, who would meet and then marry struggling actor Humphrey Bogart a few years later.

In May 1934, she headlined the article, “Carole Lombard Tells Why Hollywood Marriages Can’t Succeed” for Motion Picture magazine. With the brashness of youth, she shrugged that it might be easy for the garden-variety housewife “to put a fence around her heart,” but in the picture business, a woman was constantly in front of cameras with desirable men by the dozen and required to “syndicate her charm.” Powell, a man 16 years her senior whom she called “Popsie,” she confessed to marriage making the walls press in around her until she found herself “breathless with the loss of freedom.”With William Brimming with frustration, Lombard stated flatly that the Powell-Lombard exercise in marriage had been “a waste of time—his and mine.” Trouble was, they liked each other; they always would.

Noel Fairchild Busch from Life magazine referred to Clark Gable as the love of her life in interviews with Lombard for an October 1938 cover story. The story goes that Carole’s snippy response about Gable was to say that Russ Columbo, not Gable, was her great love, “and that is most definitely off the record.” But her actions five years earlier, viewed through the prism of Columbo’s anguished letters, speak loudly about who loved whom, and how much. During summer 1934, Carole got to
know the Colombo family with its intense Italian culture and found herself at sea.

She wasn’t Catholic; she had no desire to become Catholic. Columbo was learning that maybe he should distance himself from his ethnic heritage or he might risk hitting a glass ceiling in Hollywood. On Friday, August 31, Russ and Carole attended a sneak preview of his new picture Wake Up and Dream. On Saturday morning, Carole drove two hours up to Lake Arrowhead for some R&R. Lombard had just wrapped the only picture of her career made at MGM studios, The Gay Bride, and was, as usual, coming down with something. The next day she relaxed in the Arrowhead sunshine and finally began to unwind. Then came a phone call out of the blue: Russ Columbo had been shot.

When asked what it would have been like for a woman to meet Clark Gable, actress Ursula Theiss (Robert Taylor's second wife) described it this way: “He would have made you feel twice the woman than you think you are, because he did like the ladies. Intellectually, you might have expected more of him, but you would have been charmed…. He would have given all the attention you expected, and more.”

Underneath Gable’s charisma, that million-dollar smile and those sparkling gray eyes, was his desire not to have attention directed at what he knew to be a wounded, vulnerable soul. A divorce (Lombard’s), a shooting death (Columbo’s), an Oscar (Gable’s), a separation (also Gable’s), and three and-a-half years later, both were ready. They struck up a conversation at the Victor Hugo during the White Mayfair Ball, sparks flew, and neither looked back from that night on. Lombard had matured quite a bit, and Clark found a lot behind those topaz blue Lombard eyes. Clark found in Carole an answer to life’s romantic mystery that he hadn’t known previously, even with Joan Crawford.

Lombard managed to be as down to earth as the lemon trees, and she had this odd quality to her that he couldn’t begin to figure out, but it was a quality he liked. A lot. Carole Lombard had the capacity to love, not like a sucker, not like some doormat. She was an honest-to-God warm human being. Somehow, a real live woman had managed to survive in Hollywood and he had found her. -"Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3" (2013) by Robert Matzen

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Ida Lupino's "Outrage": the sexist banality of evil

"Outrage" (1950) on TCM, October 6, 2015 at 09:45 PM - A young woman who has just become engaged has her life completely shattered when she is raped while on her way home from work. Director: Ida Lupino, Producer: Collier Young, Screenplay: Collier Young, Malvin Wald & Ida Lupino, Cinematography: Archie Stout, Louis Clyde Stoumen, Cast: Mala Powers (Ann Walton), Tod Andrews (Bruce Ferguson), Robert Clarke (Jim Owens), Raymond Bond (Eric Walton), Lillian Hamilton (Mrs. Walton), Rita Lupino (Stella Carter).

In the documentary A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995) the influential director singles out the films that best define the dark and menacing genre of film noir. Among them is Ida Lupino's Outrage (1950), a film that has none of the usual noir trappings of murder, gunplay and bank heists. It is, instead, a personal tale of one woman's attempts to cope with the psychological effects of having been raped. In Scorsese's words, the film is "a subdued behavioral study that captures the banality of evil in an ordinary small town," not exactly how one normally defines noir. And few films captured the post-WWII zeitgeist of noir more effectively than Outrage.

Working late to earn extra money for her upcoming marriage, Ann Walton (Mala Powers) is stalked one night by the proprietor of a snack wagon (Albert Mellen), whose previous efforts to flirt with Ann had been unsuccessful. Unable to identify her attacker, Ann attempts to resume a life of normalcy, but is unable to endure the curious stares of her neighbors and co-workers. In some ways, Outrage clearly bears the earmarks of noir. The stalking sequence is filled with the angular compositions and encroaching shadows that define the genre's visual form, yet Lupino avoids some of the typical methods of generating suspense. Instead of burying the scene under an overwrought orchestral score, the scene is largely silent, which only compounds the tension.

Once Ann is attempting to start her life anew, there is very little attention paid to the search for the culprit. In some ways this is another diversion from the conventions of noir, which tend to focus upon the machinations of crime and punishment. But equally important to the genre is the psychological torment and confusion that cloud its characters' perspectives. Ann's inner turmoil is just as engrossing as any criminal investigation would be, and Lupino clearly wants to show that capturing the rapist would do little to ease Ann's pain and confusion, which is likely to linger well after the closing credits have run.

Lupino's unwillingness to conclude the film with a trite happy ending that magically restores its characters to normalcy is one of Outrage's many special achievements. But escaping the conventionality of screen drama was one of Lupino's ongoing objectives as a writer/producer/director.

Ida Lupino named her production company Emerald Productions, after her mother, Connie Emerald. Her ambition was to produce films that broached subjects generally avoided by the Hollywood mainstream. In addition to Outrage's careful treatment of rape, Lupino's films addressed such unconventional topics as bigamy (The Bigamist, 1953), unwed motherhood (Not Wanted, 1949), polio (Never Fear, 1949) and even the corruption of sports (Hard, Fast and Beautiful, 1951). The slightly ragtag feel of Lupino's films, coupled with their often sensational subject matter, has caused Lupino to be recently dubbed "Queen of the B's." Source:

“Outrage,” a Hollywood movie from 1950, looks intimately, painfully, and analytically at what we now know to call rape culture. It was directed by Ida Lupino, who is familiar as one of the hard-edged and worldly-wise actresses of the forties and fifties (I’d especially recommend “The Man I Love,” “On Dangerous Ground,” “While the City Sleeps,” and “The Big Knife”), but she was also one of the great directors of the time.

“Outrage” is a special artistic achievement. Lupino approaches the subject of rape with a wide view of the societal tributaries that it involves. She integrates an inward, deeply compassionate depiction of a woman who is the victim of rape with an incisive view of the many societal failures that contribute to the crime, including legal failure to face the prevalence of rape, and the over-all prudishness and sexual censoriousness that make the crime unspeakable in the literal sense and end up shaming the victim. Lupino’s camera moves slowly toward the floor and parts the dancers, leaving them behind and leaving Ann isolated, as the movie—and Ann herself—contemplate the incommensurable emotional distance that separates her, seemingly definitively, from the realm of regular lovers. Source:

Friday, October 02, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Leo McCarey!

Happy Anniversary, Leo McCarey! Born Thomas Leo McCarey (3 October 1896, Los Angeles, USA - 5 July 1969, Santa Monica), he was one of the most influential screwball film directors, involved in nearly 200 movies, the most well known today being Duck Soup, Make Way for Tomorrow, The Awful Truth, Going My Way and An Affair To Remember. French director Jean Renoir once said that no other Hollywood director understood people better than Leo McCarey. He is among an elite group of eight directors who have won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (Orig/Adapted). The others are Billy Wilder, Francis Ford Coppola, James L. Brooks, Peter Jackson, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

McCarey directed 6 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Ralph Bellamy, Irene Dunne, Maria Ouspenskaya , Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald and Ingrid Bergman. Crosby and Fitzgerald won for their performances in "Going My Way" (1944). Orson Welles said of the film "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937) that "It would make a stone cry", and rhapsodized about his enthusiasm for the film in his series of interviews with Peter Bogdanovich, "This Is Orson Welles". In Newsweek Magazine, Errol Morris named "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937) his number one most important film, stating "The most depressing movie ever made, providing reassurance that everything will definitely end badly."

Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers cope with love, laughter, and war-themed Nazi intrigue in this comedy/mystery directed with panache by Leo McCarey, Once Upon a Honeymoon. An American burlesque girl intent on social climbing unknowingly marries a Nazi in the guise of an Austrian Baron. When an American radio reporter tracks the couple down to investigate, she inadvertently falls in love with the reporter instead.

Ginger Rogers demonstrates satin double-breasted jumpsuit (Once Upon a Honeymoon, 1942)

Like all McCarey heroes, Lucy believes, as in the song from Love Affair, that “wishing can make it so,” which goes to the heartbeat of Western civilization. Insistently, she makes the best of the hand she is dealt. In contrast to the usherette in the theater earlier, who complained that the guy in the film playing there was a “rat,” Lucy admires the way “the girl believed . . . no matter how black things looked.” Indeed, when Lucy admonishes Rhoda—“When you're seventy . . . about the only fun you have left is pretending that there ain't any facts to face"—we pity her, but what we take for weakness turns out to be strength. In attending to Bark, Lucy makes their last hours joyful and full when they could have been unrelieved agony. Source: