Posts tagged ‘Carole Lombard’
This post is in conjunction with today’s Fashion in Film Blogathon behing hosted by the lovely Angela at The Hollywood Revue!
Scene: Main Street, USA. 1937. Boy and girl at the local theatre watching the new Carole Lombard comedy Nothing Sacred. Lots of laughter, lots of coddling. The sight of Lombard in a voluminous yet slinky black dress catches both of their attentions. The Boy: “My god,” he thinks, “look at those [insert female euphemism of choice].” The Girl: My god,” she thinks, “look at that dress!”
She wants it.
She needs it.
She is instantly convinced that owning it will make her fella think her [euphemisms] are every bit as noteworthy as Lombard’s.
And Hollywood, that eager opportunist, was ready to oblige.
Enter, stage left, a start-up by New York entrepreneur Bernard Waldman called Cinema Shops– a nationwide chain of retail outlets dedicated to bringing big-screen fashion to small town shops. Read more ►
Harlow at 100: Day Four of the Jean Harlow Blogathon!
Today is the day, folks!
The hundredth birthday of one cinema’s finest comediennes and a genuinely warm, kind-hearted lady. We are halfway through the Blogathon and you guys are really showing the love. Is today’s lineup ever a lulu! Birthday tributes to the baby are pouring in from all over the globe, it’s truly thrilling!
So many posts to get to, so without further ado:
TCM’s Movie News is not an official Blogathon partner, but did plug this lovely mention of the new Harlow exhibit at the Hollywood Max Factor Museum.
Jennifer’s Silent Stanzas chimes in today with “For Harlean” – a beautiful poem for Harlow on her 100th.
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear decided to take a look at Harlow’s work in silent’s with comedy legends Laurel and Hardy. (Ivan’s sister shares Harlow’s birthday so it’s a double treat for him.)
Brandie at True Classics has favored the 1936 screball comedy Libeled Lady with “She May Be His Wife But She’s Engaged to Me!” It’s The Pictorial’s absolute favorite Harlow film and Brandie definitely does it justice.
Tara Hanks’ “American Bombshells: Marilyn and Jean Harlow” makes a great assessment of the careers of both bombshells. As Clara Bow, the first ‘It Girl’, said after Monroe’s death, ‘A sex symbol is a heavy load to carry, especially when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.’
From France we have David Benard with a very beautifully presented post for the Harlow’s centenary. (Joyeux Anniversaire, Baby!)
I’ll Take the Snap Out of Your Garters!
Another newcomer, I’ll Take the Snap Out of Your Garters, (how brilliant of a blog title is that?!?) enters the blogathon today with a fitting tribute.
Silence is Platinum
Jessica at Silence is Platinum offers a very personal account of what makes Harlow so special.
Kevin at Clarosureaux is back today, this time taking on the Harlow classic Bombshell (Hollywood historians take special note of his post– he needs your help!)
Carole & Co.
Vincent from Carole & Co. returns with a tribute to Harlow – even bestowing his Lombard avatar with Harlow’s image for the occasion! (Awww, thanks Vincent!)
Edward Copeland on Film
One of the more comprehensive entries to date is Josh’s “Centennial Tribute” to Jean over at Edward Copeland on Film.
11 East 14th Street
Of equal depth is Gene from 11 East 14th Street with “My Search for Jean Harlow”—a fascinating in depth look into the woman who became the legend.
Noir and Chick Flicks
(Apologies if I missed anyone on today’s update– you will absolutely make it for tomorrow’s edition!)
The Jean Harlow Blogathon Day One!
Today The Jean Harlow Blogathon kicks off and we are off to a roaring start! Thoughtful, imaginative and introspective—everyone is really putting out some beautiful work which just amps up the excitement of what’s in store for the rest of the week.
Carole & Company:
Vincent from Carole & Co., who has been a major supporter of this Blogathon, has created an alternate universe in which real-life friends Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard have swapped careers. “Let’s Switch” is a winsome short story that asks us to tap into our imagination and wonder how might they have fared in the other’s films:
Harlow, Lombard: Let’s switch!
For the centenary of Jean Harlow’s birth, I tried to find a way to commemorate it – especially since this will be part of a Harlow blogathon at “The Kitty Packard Pictorial,” a superb site on Harlow, classic Hollywood and popular culture (http://kittypackard.wordpress.com/).
An entry linking Carole Lombard and Harlow isn’t easy. Although they were good friends and were beloved by casts and crews throughout filmland, no picture of them together has ever been discovered – a holy grail among both fandoms. Carole’s first husband, William Powell, later had an intense, but ill-fated, romance with Harlow, and Lombard’s second husband, Clark Gable, was renowned for his steamy romantic films with Jean (although in real life, they were good friends, never lovers).
So, what’s a writer to do? Use imagination, that’s what. I’m going to create an alternate universe where Lombard stars in Harlow’s movies, and vice versa. How might these silver screen goddesses have fared in each other’s films?
Kevin Scrantz runs a fascinating blog called Clarosureaux and specializes in colorizing and restoring vintage photography. He’s also a Jean Harlow enthusiast as you will find in his post Harlow Centenary:
March 3 will mark Jean Harlow’s 100th birthday, so pretty much my entire blog will be devoted to her for the next couple of weeks
As part of the celebration of her hundredth year, the Max Factor Museum in Hollywood will be hosting a new Harlow exhibit that contains such cool items as her Packard and a mural that once hung in Paul Bern‘s Benedict Canyon home depicting Harlow, Joan Crawford, and a host of other MGM stars as medieval courtiers.
Eve’s Reel Life
Oh that Lady Eve Sidwich! Her Eve’s Reel Life blog is a real treasure trove : an intelligent blend of thoughtful prose and painstaking research and she has really outdone herself with “Platinum Blonde and Beyond“. Here she takes a look at one of Harlow’s early features, Platinum Blonde, and within the contextual framework of Harlow’s early career she does a marvelous job of pinpointing what makes Platinum Blonde pivotal:
It was her trademark, her calling card and, in 1931, the name of a film in which she received third billing. Platinum Blonde had originally been intended as a vehicle for top-billed star Loretta Young but, by the time it was released, the film’s title had changed and changed again until it was an outright reference to pale-haired co-star Jean Harlow. It was not Harlow’s breakout picture, that had come with Hell’s Angels (1930), nor is it generally cited as one of her great classics, but Platinum Blonde was pivotal – it proclaimed her stardom.
In 1931, the 20-year-old starlet was still under an oppressive five-year contract with Howard Hughes, producer/director of Hell’s Angels. She had proven her appeal in the film, but Hughes had no projects in the works for her and most Hollywood insiders believed he was mismanaging her career. Harlow’s then-friend/future husband Paul Bern arranged for her loan to MGM for The Secret Six (1931) an underworld drama with Wallace Beery and not-yet-famous Clark Gable.
Immediately after, she was loaned out to Universal for an unsympathetic role in The Iron Man (1931), a boxing drama with Lew Ayres. While still on that project, she went back to MGM for retakes on The Secret Six and began work on her next film, this time on loan to Warner Brothers for the gangster classic The Public Enemy (1931), with James Cagney. Her fourth film in five months was for Fox, Goldie (1931), a comedy with Spencer Tracy. Of these films only The Public Enemy was an unqualified hit, and it was a blockbuster, but it was Cagney who became the overnight star…Harlow’s allure was noted, but her performance was widely panned.
The Hollywood Revue:
Angela with The Hollywood Revue is a super swell dame and, in honor of Jean’s centenary, she has published a great review of one of Jean Harlow’s best films, Wife vs. Secretary. It’s also in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the film’s release back on Febraury 28 1936:
Van Stanhope (Clark Gable) seems to have it all: he’s a very successful magazine publisher, he’s been very happily married to Linda (Myrna Loy) for three years, and he’s got Whitey (Jean Harlow), the best secretary he could ever want. Most wives would be worried about their husbands having secretaries, who look like Whitey, but Linda trusts Van completely and she has every reason to. At least she trusts him until all the suggestions from friends and family that Whitey must be one of those secretaries finally start to get to her. But Linda isn’t the only one jealous of Van and Whitey’s working relationship. Whitey’s boyfriend Dave (James Stewart) wants to marry her, but she loves her job and doesn’t want to quit to stay at home.
When Van decides to take on a new business venture, he has to keep it top secret from everyone, including Linda. Whitey is the only person who knows what’s going on. So when he says he’s been at a club all afternoon one day, Linda does a little investigating and finds out he wasn’t at the club all day, he was with Whitey. Linda begins to fear that all those insinuations were right after all, she has no idea that he and Whitey were working together on the new business deal. Things get even worse when at a company skating party, Linda thinks Van and Whitey look like a little too friendly and she asks Van to transfer Whitey to a new job. Van refuses and Linda eventually decides she’s being ridiculous and Van promises to take her on vacation soon to make it up to her.
The Platinum Page:
Ah, the lovely Lisa Burks. If you’re a fan of Harlow’s you almost certainly have spent many an hour at her Platinum Page. It was the first such one on the Internet dedicated to Harlow and is still the place to go for anything and everything related to her. It is hardly surprising, then, that in her post Harlow 100 Week she has proposed a truly beautiful gesture in Jean’s honor:
This weekend I had my thinking cap on to come up with some article ideas, when my friend and fellow Harlow fan Reg Williams pinged me about his efforts to encourage fans to fill Jean’s room in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale with flowers.
If you’d like to participate, contact The Flower Shop at Forest Lawn to place your order. Please note, Forest Lawn’s $3 placement fee will apply. The delivery location is Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Benediction, Private Family Mausoleum Room #34, Crypt B.
How will we know if the goal is met? Being a private room, special permission is needed to visit in person. The Platinum Page is on the case and will be working our contacts to bring you officially sanctioned updates, so stay tuned!
Keep the links coming, everyone!
Join in the celebration and email The Pictorial!
“God, but this film is beautiful,” Roger Ebert once said of Gregory La Cava’s 1936 satirical screwball comedy My Man Godfrey. “This movie, and the actors in it, and its style of production, and the system that produced it, and the audiences that loved it, have all been replaced by pop culture of brainless vulgarity. But the movie survives, and to watch it is to be rescued from some people who don’t care that it makes a difference …”
From the first seconds that My Man Godfrey flickers onto the screen, it is quite clear this is not going to be your average screwball comedy. The blinking neon lights of a swell night out on the town are fetchingly rendered in the imaginative opening credits of Gregory La Cava’s 1936 satirical screwball, fading slowly into to the slums of Manhattan. There on a city dump, vagrants live in a polite, civilized society of newspaper houses and cardboard beds. They are the Forgotten Men of the Great Depression— left to rot in dirt while Manhattan’s high society parties high above their shadow. This is going to be class-conscious comedy at its finest.
Bursting into the well-mannered civility of tramp life are two spoiled, deliriously disillusioned young Park Avenue socialites. Cornelia and Irene Bullock, glittering in their expensive silk and furs, descend upon the down-and-out itinerants with eager claws. They are in the midst of a scavenger hunt being hosted at the Waldorf Ritz Hotel, and the last item to be found before they can win their prize? A Forgotten Man.
For what could be more offensively insensitive than for the idle rich to find amusement in the plight of the poor, and to exploit the helplessness of poverty with something as absurd as a scavenger hunt.
The eldest Bullock—the frighteningly beautiful Cornelia (played with venomous sex appeal by Gail Patrick) offers one of the tramps $5 to come with her to the Waldorf Ritz. When the tramp realizes he is to be paraded in front of high society for a lark, he darkens and verbally lays into the heiress with such anger that she falls backwards onto an ash pile.
While Cornelia marches of in a huff, the younger sister (a delightfully dizzy Carole Lombard) is quite happy to make a quick exit, but not before Godfrey gives her a piece of his mind. However, her doe-eyed innocence tempers him and he suggests that the two go to the Waldorf Ritz. “Let’s beat Cornelia.”
Upon arrival at the hotel, Godfrey finds himself in the middle of a mad house— the refined upper crust of the Manhattan aristocracy have converged in a glittering ballroom like a marauding band of pirates—goats, goldfish, spinning wheels and all manner of livestock are present as their captors battle it out to win the scavenger contest.
Indeed, as Mr. Bullock says (the booming baritone voiced Eugene Pallete) ‘all you need to start an asylum is a room and the right kind of people.’
The only figure of reason and dignity to be found in the room is the forgotten man that Irene drags to the platform. Upon winning the scavenger hunt, Godfrey is urged to make a speech. His words set the tone for the rest of the picture:
‘My purpose in coming here tonight was twofold. First, I wanted to aid this young lady. Second, I was interested to see how a pack of empty-headed nitwits conducted themselves. My curiosity has been satisfied. I assure you, it will be a pleasure to return to a society of really important people.’
And here is where we understand that although we are in for an hour and a half of outlandish zanity (I know zanity isn’t a word, but it should be, darn it!), in what is a peerless screwball comedy, we are in actuality witnessing a relentlessly acerbic statement against the social injustices that were so violently felt during the dark throes of the depression.
Gregory LaCava examines this social dichotomy by implanting the dignified, decent Godfrey as the butler for the outlandish and thoroughly ridiculous Bullock family. Ridiculous doesn’t begin to cover it: it isn’t uncommon for the Bullock girls to march horses into the house and them promptly forget them in the library. Nor is it uncommon for Mr. Bullock to have to pay off policemen and Process Servants for his family’s indiscretions.
Scrubbed up and shaven, Godfrey cuts a distinguished figure that is the sole voice of reason in the household, and at once captures the heart and whimsy of little Irene and her continually unsuccessful attempts at capturing his attentions make for much of the film’s gaiety.
LaCava’s direction here is fluid. My Man Godfrey possesses the look and feel and nuance of a Lubitsch film, while containing the madcap insanity of a Marx Brothers romp. So flawless is LaCava’s navigation of this thoroughly ridiculous farce, that even though LaCava unequivocally makes the film’s message clear from act one scene one, he never makes us feel as though we are watching a ‘message film.’
And even though the film has a simply beautiful sheen to it—all silvery shimmery celluloid loveliness—LaCava manages to be very economical in his excess. For the world of the Bullocks is one of complete excess, yet never does LaCava allow the film to become self-indulgent or shallow. He frames his shots beautifully and his frequent use of close-ups is never superficial: they either serve to advance the story or bring depth to the character. Of which, there are many and most of them unforgettable.
Carol Lombard is at her unbridled, unrestrained best as the lovesick loony Irene Bullock who, although a spoiled little space cadet, has an endearing heart of gold and would be quite happy to live on a city dump with Godfrey for the rest of her life. Her fearsome sister Cornelia is, as Godfrey puts it, a Park Avenue Brat, who decided to make an example out of Godfrey when he remains impervious to her advances by trying to make his life at the Bullock house something of a nightmare. Which includes her malevolent scheme to frame him as a common thief.
Alice Brady is an absolute delight as Angelica Bullock—a pleasantly dizzy socially conscious chameleon with a protégé named Carlo—the achingly funny Mischa Auer who is Mrs. Bullock’s pride and joy as well as the bane of Mr. Bullock’s existence. While Mr. Bullock’s hard earned fortune dwindles thanks to his family’s excesses (and his bad investments) it is easy for him to take most of his frustration out on the freeloading Carlo, an artiste in training whom Mrs. Bullock feels needs a constant atmosphere of idle reflection in order to cultivate his creativity.
And while the Bullock family delivers many high jinks and hilarity, the film as a whole is anchored in Godfrey’s resilient self-respect. He may be a homeless butler (or is he?) but he possesses more grace and decorum than any in the socially affluent Bullock household. William Powell’s dexterity of performance is quite remarkable and it is the absolute pillar upon which the film is built. His performance—shrewd, discreet and ever so urbane—is certainly why, seven decades on, the film still ticks like clockwork.
Godfrey reveals himself to be one of Society’s upper crust—Godfrey Park of Boston who, after suffering a devastating blow to his pride from a failed romance, took up residence on the city dump and therein learned true self respect and dignity from the men around him. His wily, business savvy leads him to single-handedly saving Mr. Bullock from financial ruin, and in so doing teaches Cornelia the fallacy of false pride, all the while trying to wean the smitten Irene from his arm for her own good … that is to say, his own good. Against Godfrey’s better judgment, he’s developed ‘that funny feeling’ for the girl and decides it best to make his exit.
Irene, of course, has other plans.
The film concludes in a perfect, beautiful circle as Godfrey transforms his old home at the city dump into a revitalization project called (what else?) The Dump: a swanky nightclub that provides quality lodging and honest work to the Forgotten Men who’d lived there. Irene, determined to be Mrs. Godfrey Smith/Park/Whoever, chases him to the dump equipped with baskets of firewood and food supplies and blankets, expecting to make a home amidst ash and rubbish piles.
Taking advantage of a justice of the peace dining at the club, Irene grabs hold of Godfrey’s hand and, as the justice begins the ceremony, she tells her speechless conquest, ‘Stand still Godfrey, it’ll all be over in a minute.’
The nobility of the working class everyman has rarely been so venerated, and the idle upper class has rarely been so scathingly reproached as in My Man Godfrey. As the Bright Lights Film Journal puts it, “So long as we live in a world of vulgar inequalities, Godfrey will have relevance.”