Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oh, "damned" and "hell" - that's not swearing. They came out of the sinful category an age ago!


Betsy Blair passed away on March 13. I've never seen any of her movies but I've read her autobiography entitled The Memory of All That years ago and it's always been one of my favourites. Betsy married Gene Kelly in 1941 and had a very interesting life of her own. I remember reading her autobiography - it's such an honest, interesting and funny book. I saw a lot of myself in her, she was interested in learning, improving herself and improving the world.

"To be very left-wing in Hollywood was to work for the unions, to work for the blacks, the ordinary things that are social democratic principles."

Classy 'till the end, she once said to an interviewer about Gene:

"I have nothing bad to say about Gene in any way ... We were married 16 years and it just came to an end."

I really like what a friend of hers had to say about her because it's really the impression I had when reading about her life. Betsy, you'll be missed.

"She was a tremendously loving, loyal and ceaselessly supportive friend — and really good, often wicked, fun. You could talk to her about absolutely anything — nothing shocked her."

Staying on topic (cinema), I'd like to say a few words about Night Nurse (1931). This movie is part of the second Forbidden Hollywood boxset released by Warner Bros last year. By the way, the third one will be released in 3 days. As soon as I have some more money, I'm going to purchase them all. Lora (Barbara Stanwyck) applies for a nursing job at the hospital and after having been initially rejected, she is hired even though she doesn't have a degree. She meets Miss Maloney, the woman who will become her best friend (Joan Blondell) and together they will uncover a plot to kill children for their trust funds (plot designed by Nick, played by Clark Gable).
First of all, let me say that Stanwyck and Blondell starring in the same movie is a match made in heaven. I love these two so very much ♥. Night Nurse has some hugely entertaining scenes, especially in the first part of it, but overall the plot was quite sinister and a bit boring. I don't think the detective story part worked well. A very young Clark Gable makes an appearance and I think his acting was even worse than in Gone With the Wind, which is saying something. He'd ruin a movie without even trying. I'd say watch this movie for Stanwyck and Blondell and for a good laugh during certain scenes but don't pay too much attention to the plot.

LORA HART: I'll kill the next one that says "ethics" to me.
MS MALONEY: Says you.
LORA HART: Yeah, says me in a big way, sister.

Barbara Stanwyck, a corpse (placed here by one of the doctors as a joke) and Joan Blondell showing their lingerie.

Frozen River was released last year. It stars Melissa Leo as Ray Eddy and Misty Upham as Lila Littlewolf. Leo was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. The screenplay focuses on two working class women (Ray and Misty) who are forced to smuggle illegal immigrants in the trunk of a car from Canada to the United States in order to make ends meet.
I'd been wanting to watch the movie ever since the day I heard about the Oscar nomination but it actually took this review written by Nan for me to see it. I think the story was well worth telling and important, especially the first half of the movie where Ray struggles to feed and take care of her two sons when she is only hired part-time at the local shop. Ultimately, however, it's a tough call. I kind of agree with Mick LaSalle (terrific and famous cinema lover, wrote many wonderful books). The acting, to me, wasn't noteworthy, just decent, and "under the guise of sincerity, [the film is] fundamentally insincere, and while posing as gritty, it's in fact sentimental." I expected more from it but in the end the plot took all the expected turns. I will remember the attempt, perhaps not so much the final result.


I've also watched Grease (1978) for the upteenth time. It was my favourite movie when I was 13, which means nothing as to its quality. I'm very suspicious of my teenage and childhood loves as I don't think half of them were based on merit. You won't find me writing about how wonderful something is based solely on my childhood memories of it. Anyway, the last time I saw it I was 13 and I've recently felt the urge to watch it again and desacralize the idea I had of it. I'm happy to say it stood the test of time. It's such a good movie with a good storyline, some excellent songs and a terrific feel of the 60s. This movie makes me so happy. It's full of clichés but the director was smart enough to dismiss them as clichés in the credits at the beginning: Sandy, the naïve cheerleader who ends up with the bad boy is seen waking up and being dressed by birds. I think that's a witty move. Sandy's makeover at the end is one of the best parts, so here it is for your viewing pleasure:

DANNY: Sandy?!
SANDY: Tell me about it, stud.

Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters took me a while to finish but I'm so glad I've read it. I'll need some time to emerge from it, it's a 800-page book (only 5% of their whole correspondence, can you believe it?) and I'm so happy I've read it. Some of it was really disturbing (Deborah's and Diana's correspondence in particular - Deborah's not as good a person as I thought she was) and even bizarre. For example, Jessica mentions how wonderful Natasha Richardson is in a letter written in 1986. Felt completely strange reading that yesterday - I mean, what a coincidence. At the end, Deborah gives her opinion to Diana about Diana Spencer's death and it felt so close to today it was disturbing as well, especially since her opinion is quite infuriating. I know that Deborah is still alive but one can't help but picturing the Mitfords as firmly rooted in the craziness of the 30s. Yet the letters begin way before the Second World war and end in 2003. It's a great historical document, funny, shocking and heartbreaking.
However, I would strongly recommend reading Jessica's letters first because Charlotte Mosley, who edited this book, had to leave so many of Decca's letters out to avoid redundance so Jessica appears as fairly distant and cold when she's just the opposite when one reads her letters (Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford).
Now that I've read The Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate, Hons and Rebels, Decca's letters, the sisters' letters, I want to continue with my Mitford discovery and read more of Nancy's books (The Blessing and Don't Tell Alfred in particular), as well as The American Way of Death written by Jessica. I'm not interested in biographies of them, they're really too complex for biographies and had such different lives - and besides I've heard bad reviews of the biographies published thus far (too biased towards one sister for example).

Now on to music. The Grease soundtrack seems like an obvious choice. But I won't post that. Instead, I want to post a bit of Elvis on this blog because clearly, a world without Elvis is a world without fun. Here's a compilation of 30 of his #1 hits. I think it's a very good CD which shows his versatility.

Elvis, Elvis, let me be!
Keep that pelvis far from me!
Just keep your cool
Now you're starting to drool
Hey Fongool, I'm Sandra Dee!


Have a beautiful and fun week!