By msbethg in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, Actresses, Cyd Charisse, Era, Evelyn Brent, Fashion, Holidays, Kay Francis, New Year, New Year's Eve, Susan Hayward Tags: 1920s, 1920s fashion, 1930s, 1930s fashion, 1940s, 1940s fashion, 1950s, 1950s fashion, b&w, black and white, black dress, butterfly, classic, classic film, classic films, classical, classical motif, classics, column dress, costume, Cyd Charisse, dress, dresses, Eugene Robert Richee, Evelyn Brent, fantasy, Fashion, fashion designer, film costume, glove, gloves, gown, gowns, hostess gown, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, Instagram, Interference, Kay Francis, lbd, msb3thg, New Year, New Year's, New Year's Day, New Year's Eve, NYE, opera length, outfit, outfits, print, Richee, Silent Film, Susan Hayward, vintage, vintage style, wardrobe
In the United States we’ve been lucky to have two New Year’s Days this year–Sunday the actual day and Monday the legally recognized holiday. Before both have been departed too long, I’d like the glamour of the holiday to linger a little longer, at least on the pages of my blog. New Year’s Eve I had fun on Instagram sharing fantasy party outfits worn by actresses of the silver screen. Let’s step into 2017 together by reveling in their fabulous.
Here’s Cyd Charisse in a gorgeous floral print gown that pops in black and white, but leaves me curious to see it in color. Love the unusual decision to place the bold print on opera length gloves to match them exactly to the dress! They elevate the look into something memorable and high impact. Cyd’s glowing. She knows she looks great.
Susan Hayward looks fiercely glam in a publicity still for I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE (1951). She plays a ruthless fashion designer who claws her way up in the industry, from working for a copyist to her own haute couture label. Of course, her character’s wardrobe becomes more fashionable and breathtaking the higher she climbs.
Model tall, Kay Francis had the frame and poise to wear clothes well and earned a reputation as a clotheshorse because costume designers knew she could wear a variety of styles and looked divine in evening wear. The photo’s photographer, Eugene Robert Richee, plays a visual joke. Francis wears a column dress in front of a literal column.
The final outfit earns its spot by being a showstopper! Actress Evelyn Brent wears a sapphire blue and silver butterfly hostess gown in INTERFERENCE (1928). The dress’s detailing must have been even more impressive in person. Brilliants and crystals were sewn onto its surface to reflect light back at the camera and make her glow like a goddess.
By msbethg in 1920s, Actresses, Anouncements, Chicago (1927), Era, Film Festivals, Genres, Movies, Phyllis Haver, Publication, Silent Film, Toronto Silent Film Festival Tags: #SilentsInTO, 1920s, 1920s fashion, 1927, 2017, 20s, April, Ben Model, book, booklet, Canada, Chicago, film, film festival, film festivals, film writer, films, flapper, girl gunner, girl gunners, Jazz Age, movie blog, movie blogger, movies, murder, murderesses, Phyllis Haver, program, programme, Roxie Hart, Silent Film, silent films, silents, Toronto, Toronto Silent Film Festival, TSFF, TSFF2017, twenties, vintage lingerie, woman film writer
The Toronto Silent Film Festival is selling early bird passes for its 2017 edition. Get yours before they run or time out! While things didn’t work out for me to attend in 2016, I’ll be there at least in published word in April. I’m very excited to be contributing a piece about CHICAGO (1927) and Jazz Age murderesses to their programme book.
By msbethg in 1920s, Actors, Actresses, Available on DVD, Blogathons, Children of Divorce (1927), Clara Bow, Divorce, Era, Esther Ralston, Flicker Alley's Children of Divorce, Gary Cooper, Genres, Hedda Hopper, Holidays, Movies, National Flapper Day, Silent Film, Sisterhood, Themes Tags: #NationalFlapperDay, 1920s, 1927, 20s, abandoned, abondonment, Blu-ray, child, childhood sweetheart, childhood sweethearts, children, Children of Divorce, Clara Bow, class, classism, convent, divorce, drama, dual format, dvd, edition, Esther Ralston, Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, flapper, flappers, Flicker Alley, Frank Lloyd, Gary Cooper, gold-digger, gold-digging, Hedda Hopper, husband, husbands, Jazz Age, Josef von Sternberg, Joyce Coad, marriage, melodrama, Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, National Flapper Day, neglect, Paramount, Paramount Studios, romance, silent, Silent Film, twenties, wife, wives, Yvonne Pelletier
Before they were jazz babies, they were jazz orphans. Their parents’ marriages dissolved under the influence of new post-war mores, and childhoods became a belated war casualty. Lacking role models, another generation seems doomed to repeat their elders’ mistakes. That’s the world CHILDREN OF DIVORCE portrays, and at its center are two women who share an unbreakable bond of sisterhood forged by the shared trauma of neglect.
If the movie sounds like a weepie, be warned, it is! Heartstrings are pulled starting when cherubic Kitty Flanders (Joyce Coad) is left at a Parisian convent by her mother (Hedda Hopper). Only one girl, Jean Waddington (Yvonne Pelletier), befriends Kitty. When she’s terrified her first night, Jean shelters Kitty in her bed, and a precedent is set for their relationship. Jean becomes an adoptive and protective big sister.
A second precedent is sent when the girls meet Teddy Larrabee (Don Marion). He climbs over the grounds’ wall one day. He’s escaping bickering grown-ups and a woman mockingly flirting with him. He’s, also, a child of divorce. When the close-in-age Teddy and Jean meet, they are smitten. Sad and envious, Kitty laments she has no one. Kitty will continue to see others’ happiness and want it.
Kitty’s a classic little sister. Since Jean was slightly older than Kitty when her parents divorced, Kitty doesn’t have the background of family stability, albeit brief, Jean had. Jean easily slips into the caretaker role, and Kitty assumes the one of needing help and understanding. Jean loves Kitty, but that can’t cure her hurt.
Since Jean’s rich after her parents’ divorce, and Kitty isn’t, she must find a way to afford remaining in elite social circles. As she grows up, Kitty’s taught by her mother that money comes before love. There’s an implication that her mother isn’t simply concerned for Kitty’s well-being, but also that Kitty’s mother will use her daughter to achieve security. Jean can marry at her leisure.
Under such circumstances, it’s easy to see why Kitty ages into a partying, gold-digging flapper (Clara Bow) and Jean grows into a noble patrician (Esther Ralston). Despite their differences, the women are delighted when life reunites them. Their bond has lasted. Their relationship becomes complicated because of Teddy, now going by Ted (Gary Cooper).
When Jean bumps into him at a party of Kitty’s, old attractions resurface, but Jean disapproves of his hedonistic lifestyle. She encourages him to get a job in order to become worthy of being her husband. Love reforms Ted, but it can’t save him from Kitty’s machinations. He’s wealthy, and he’s wanted by someone Kitty admires. Once she gets Ted drunk at a party, he doesn’t stand a chance. He wakes up tousled and married—to Kitty!
This is the biggest test of Jean and Kitty’s love. Of course, Jean is angry about Kitty’s betrayal and Ted’s haplessness and unfaithfulness. Perhaps Jean sees this as an indicator she and Ted weren’t meant to be, but Kitty comes first when Jean makes her decision of what to do.
As the movie’s moral voice, Jean doesn’t believe in divorce, and she can’t deny Kitty a shot at happiness. Jean naively believes her friend and sweetheart can make a marriage work despite their incompatibility and lack of love. When Kitty insists that she will be a good wife, Jean relents and gives Ted to Kitty by not fighting for him—a decision that will lead to misery and tragedy.
Despite the love triangle, the movie’s central relationship is clearly Kitty and Jean’s. They get the most screen time. For one, Bow and Ralston were the experienced performers. Ted was Cooper’s first major role, one he was cast in at his lover Bow’s insistence. While in the final product he’s handsome and charismatic, on the set he was unsure and afraid, and he blew many takes. Panicked, he even fled filming and had to be brought back. He couldn’t be trusted to help carry the picture.
The result was the actresses were given the opportunity to explore their characters’ dualities. Ralston’s role is not as flashy as Bow’s. Ralston has to be the perfectly good friend. She has to be beautiful yet believably tossed over for Bow. She manages to be a strong, sympathetic presence. It would’ve been easy for Bow’s character to simply be the manipulative vamp, but she makes sure the audience knows every bad, later-regretted act comes from Kitty’s place of pain.
There’s symmetry in imagery emphasizing the women’s relationship. A powerful, early shot shows young Jean comforting young Kitty in bed at the convent. A second, equally affecting shot reminiscent of the first occurs near the film’s end. A grown-up Jean comforts a grown-up Kitty in bed. We never see either woman in bed with a man. For the women, the bed isn’t a sexual place, but a shared place of refuge. Whether escaping adult-caused problems or their own adult problems, it’s a place they return to together. Whatever happens, each has a sister to love her no matter what.
By msbethg in Bésame, Contests, Film Festivals, TCM Film Festival Tags: #TCMFF16, #TCMFF2016, #TCMFFGlamour, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1946, 1950s, 1960s, Agent Carter, American Horror Story, Bésame, Bésame Cosmetics, boutique, brightening, classic, classic film, classic films, color-correcting, contest, entrepreneur, era, eras, film festival, film festivals, finishing, finishing powder, French vanilla, French Vanilla Brightening Powder, Gabriela Hernandez, giveaway, grandmother, handmade, hashtag, Hayley Atwell, Instagram, lipstick, luxury, luxury make-up, make-up, Peggy Carter, powder, red, red lipstick, Red Velvet, repro, repro vintage, reproduction, reproduction vintage, retro, Sephora, TCM, TCM Classic Film Festival, TCM Film Festival, TCMFF, TCMFF 2016, The Artist, Twitter, Twitterverse, vanilla, Vanilla Brightening Powder, vintage, women entrepreneurs
When I submitted my media credential application to cover the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), I told them one of my coverage interests was how fans present themselves, how they dress or adorn themselves to show their love of classic movies and their eras and TCM. I’ve done a bit of that in advance by reporting on how its fans have a button obsession that led to a creative opportunity for an artist. I’m eager to see how many fans go beyond wearing buttons and tees by dressing and styling themselves after specific films, performers, or time periods. I’m going to look for glamour on the TCMFF red carpet and cinema sidewalks. I’m, also, going to contribute to it!
I spoke with one of my favorite vintage-era inspired brands, Bésame Cosmetics, and they have wonderfully agreed to be a sponsor of Spellbound by Movies’ first contest! They are giving me two dozen products to brighten the smiles and faces of lucky TCMFF attendees. Over the four days of the festival, I’ll be giving away six products a day. Before I get into the details of how to win the products, I want to tell you a little more about Bésame.
It was founded by Gabriela Hernandez. As a girl, she was “fascinated by her grandmother’s sophisticated beauty routine.” Her passion for the arts and her entrepreneurial drive found inspiration in the memories of her grandmother’s make-up and beauty rituals. Gabriela created Bésame Cosmetics. Every element of the line from product colors to packaging was developed to bring back the romance of earlier eras to make today’s woman feel confident and glamorous. Products are carefully formulated for historical accuracy in color, modern performance, and safety standards that surpass Europe’s. The lipstick range reproduces colors from the 1920s through the 1960s. All items are designed and made in the United States. Bésame started as a handmade, boutique brand, best known among vintage enthusiasts. Its name has spread, and its popularity has increased. Its products now can be found in film and television productions, either worn by performers or dressing sets, and in Sephora.
Now that the backstory has been shared, here are the products to be won!
Red Velvet draws upon 1946 for its color inspiration. It’s a deeper, semi-matte shade appropriate for everyday wear. The lipstick surged in sales when Hayley Atwell revealed she wore it onscreen when portraying Agent Peggy Carter. It normally retails for $22. The ingredient list and further details can be found here. I have a dozen to give away.
Vanilla Brightening Powder
Brightening powder does what it says. It brightens the look of its wearer’s skin. Like the name implies, the powder is vanilla-scented. It has a yellow tint to reduce redness, and it works best on light to medium complexions. It normally retails for $22. The ingredient list and further details can be found here. I have a half-dozen to give away.
French Vanilla Brightening Powder
The main difference between Vanilla Brightening powder and the French Vanilla version is shade. Both product are yellow-tinted to reduce redness, but French Vanilla works best on medium to dark skin. It normally retails for $22. The ingredient list and further details can be found here. I have a half-dozen to give away.
How Can You Win These Products?
- I’m going to give these items away, 6 per day, at TCMFF, so you must be an attendee.
- When I’m going to give away a product, I will tweet about it from my account. Either follow my account (@missbethg) or search for the hashtag #TCMFFGlamour.
- I may ask a trivia question or ask you to answer a question or simply tell you where you can find me.
- Only one prize per person. I want to make two dozen people happy.
- If you are a winner, please agree to let me share on social media and this blog that you are a winner. If possible, I would like to share a photo of you holding or wearing the product you win. Bésame has been generous in giving this product for free in exchange for spreading its brand name.
- If you are a winner, I’m going to ask you to share on your own social media that you won. Please @ tag Bésame on Twitter and/or on Instagram, mention my blog by name, and use the hashtag #TCMFFGlamour as part of your tweet or post.
For those not attending TCMFF, I hope to do another giveaway in the future that you will be eligible to enter. Thanks for your patience on this!
Good luck to those attending the fest! I’ll see you there or in the Twitterverse!
By msbethg in Film Festivals, Genres, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Silent Film Tags: 1906, 1913, 1914, 1920s, 1924, 1924.Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, 1927, 35 mm, 35mm, Academy Awards, accompanist, accompanists, All Quiet on the Western Front, Amazing Tales from the Archives, American, Archives, Arnold Ridley, Arthur Askey, Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, Barry O'Neil, Bartavelle, Berlin, BFI, British, British Board of Film Censors, British Film Institute, Bryony Dixon, Buddhist, cabaret, Castro, Castro District, Castro Theatre, Cave of the Spider Women, centennial, certificate, chanteuse, Chinese, cine-fiction, Clara Gustavsson, comedy, Craig Ventresco Trio, critic, Der letzte Mann, Desmet Collection, disaster, district, Donald Sosin, Dracula, drama, earthquake, Emil Jannings, epic, Ethel Clayton, EYE Filmmuseum, F.W. Murnau, Figures de Circe, film, film festival, film festivals, film fragments, films, fire, fragments, Frank Bockius, Frankenstein, Géza von Bolváry, H, H certificate, Hearst Castle, Holmes, horror, House of Wax, Jennifer Miko, Julia Morgan, Kit Kat Club, Lewis Milestone, Lobster Films, Lubin Manufacturing Company, magic-spirit, magic-spirit film, Maurice Tourneur, McRoskey Mattress Company‘, mega-spectacle, Meredith Axelrod., Milestone, monk, Movette Film Transfer, Murnau, National Library of Norway, Naughty Boudoir Photo Booth, nitrate, opening night, Pan si dong), Paris, party, Paul McGann, Paul Rotha, Poesia Osteria Italiana, print, rare, RMS Lusitania, Robert Byrne, Ruan Lingyu, San Francisco, San Francisco Silent Film, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Serge Bromberg, SF, SF Silent Film, SF Silent Film Fest, SF Silent Film Festival, Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, short, Siegmund Lubin, Sierra Nevada, Silent Film, silent films, Spider Queen, Stephen Horne, Suzanne Drexhage, Technicolor, Technicolor Corporation, The Ghost Train, The Last Laugh, theater, theatre, W.R. Hearst, war, war film, war films, When the Earth Trembled, William Gillette, world war, World War I, WWI
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is almost here! Its first film fills the Castro Theatre’s screen on Thursday night. We’ll rewind our scene to before its audience sits, before they pile into the picture palace, before they stand in a line snaking down Castro and stretching around the corner down 17th, and stop where they chat with anticipation about the experience that awaits them with their friends. Let’s take a look at the films selected to celebrate the festival’s twentieth anniversary.
It’s incorrect to say the festival eases into its first screening with only one feature. A centerpiece film always kicks off the event in grand style. This year it’s the silent version of war film All Quiet On The Western Front (1930), directed by Lewis Milestone. There were actually two versions of the film made simultaneously, a sound version for English-speaking audiences and an “International Sound Version,” essentially a silent with a later added score and intertitles, written for foreign language markets. While the talkie version was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two, festival Artistic Director Anita Monga says, “Many people consider it to be superior to the sound version.” The epic devastatingly details what happens to a group of young German boys recruited to the trenches of World War I. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra accompany the film.
An off-site opening night party follows the movie. The McRoskey Mattress Company‘s top-floor loft turns into the Kit Kat Club, a 1920s Berlin cabaret hosted by Swedish chanteuse Clara Gustavsson. Also performing are the Craig Ventresco Trio, featuring Meredith Axelrod. Fine food and drink are part of the festivities. Your party ticket gets you nibbles from Poesia Osteria Italiana, wine from Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, beer from Sierra Nevada, and a special cocktail—the Voluptuous Panic—created by Bartavelle‘s Suzanne Drexhage. Vintage attire and dancing are encouraged! Something called the Naughty Boudoir Photo Booth makes a first appearance. Whether you enter the booth before or after imbibing is up to you!
If you attend the party, keep in mind that Day 2 of the fest begins bright and early at 10 AM with Amazing Tales from the Archives! If you miss this educational session, your hardcore silent film fan friends will brag about all the interesting facts they learned and rare films they saw. The ever entertaining Serge Bromberg, of Lobster Films, recounts finding Maurice Tourneur’s 1914 short Figures de Cire (House of Wax). Bryony Dixon brings a treasure trove of footage about the RMS Lusitania to mark the centennial of its sinking, and crowd favorite actor Paul McGann adds narration to her films. Festival President Robert Byrne describes the meticulous process of reconstructing and restoring William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes. In recognition of another centennial, this time Technicolor‘s, Movette Film Transfer‘s Jennifer Miko screens a home movie shot at Hearst Castle and starring its architect Julia Morgan and W.R. Hearst. Donald Sosin accompanies this program.
I’m excited this year’s Chinese selection deviates from past offerings. While the suffering women dramas previously screened, often starring Ruan Lingyu, were excellent, Cave of the Spider Women or Pan si dong (1927) offers something new to the program. It is a magic-spirit film, a genre popular in 1920s Shanghai, but quite rare to screen today due to so much of early Chinese film being lost. A nitrate 35mm print of the movie was discovered in the National Library of Norway‘s archives. This is not an unusual occurrence. Staffing and funding limitations mean that films listed as lost might lay in other archives undocumented and awaiting discovery and thus restoration before they deteriorate too badly to be saved. In the film. a monk and his followers—a monkey, pig, and shark spirit–search for Buddhist texts while facing dangers like the seductive Spider Queen and her handmaidens. Donald Sosin and Frank Bockius accompany the film.
When the Earth Trembled (1913) fills the local interest slot. If you’re guessing by the title that it’s about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, then you are correct! The movie may be the first fictional one made about the disaster, and it incorporates real newsreel footage shot in the earthquake’s aftermath. That’s of special note since the Lubin Manufacturing Company later lost the majority of its newsreel footage in a vault fire, so contained within this disaster epic is a chance to see true life scenes that otherwise would have been destroyed. Director Barry O’Neil‘s insistence on realistic recreations adds to the sense of danger. His leading lady Ethel Clayton almost died when a chandelier fell on her during an earthquake scene. Due to his attention to detail and film mogul Siegmund Lubin devoting four months to making the movie, when normally his studio cranked out two pictures a week, they produced a mega-spectacle that’s sure to thrill today. Multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne accompanies the film.
Film critic Paul Rotha described The Last Laugh (1924), or Der letzte Mann, as “cine-fiction in its purest form.” Director F.W. Murnau‘s technique was revolutionary. He created a drama focused on an ordinary man’s fall using few intertitles, a fluid camera, and the best of Emil Jannings‘ acting ability. Jannings’ character, a hotel doorman, takes pride in the fine uniform his job provides him. The uniform brings him respect and gives him greater status in his workingclass neighborhood. When his job and uniform are taken away from him, his identity and position are the greater losses compared to the income. The perilousness of work instability and its impact on self-worth and class and social status can resonate for today’s audiences experienced in recession. Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, in its inaugural appearance accompanies the film.
The Ghost Train (1927) is the first film adaptation of the popular stage play by Arnold Ridley. It blends horror and comedy elements in depicting what happens when strangers are stranded at a supposedly haunted train station. I’ve seen the 1941 version starring Arthur Askey, which emphasized comedy over the supernatural, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Hungarian director Géza von Bolváry was freer to play up the story’s spookier and darker aspects. After American horror hits Dracula and Frankenstein upset some vocal members of the public, the British Board of Film Censors created the H(orror) certificate as an advisement in 1932, but in reality that resulted in children under 16 being banned from cinemas showing films labeled such. British filmmakers avoided getting the certificate by avoiding the horror genre. Online clips from the silent version show clever uses of animation and superimposition. Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius accompany the film, and Paul McGann provides narration.
This concludes Part 1 of my San Francisco Silent Film Festival preview. Part 2 follows tomorrow!
By msbethg in Blogathons, Fairy Tale, Fairy Tales, Genres, Silent Film Tags: 1920s, accompanist, accompanists, Allen Jeffrey Rein, Anna May Hirsch, Anne Richardson, Appalachia, Appalachian, Blancanieves, blogathon, Blogathons, CA, Cali, California, camera, Charles Rosher, cinema, Claire, Claude Debussy, contemporary, Copland, corn, corn stalk, couple, D.W. Griffith, director, directors, equipment, exposures, F.W. Murnau, fairy tale, fairy tales, farm, farmer, farmers, farming, farms, father, fatherhood, fathers, folktale, folktales, gay, Georges Méliès, handcrank, Herbst Theatre, homosexual, intertitles, James Ferguson, Japan, Japanese, Josh, Kaguya, Kaguya-hime, luna, lunar, lune, Mary Pickford, Michel Hazanavicius, Milford Thomas, Mish P. DeLight, Miss Earwood, Mitchell Standard, Mitchell Standard handcrank camera, moon, Mutability, orchestra, Orchestra de Lune, orchestras, Pablo Berger, Percy Bysshe Shelley, poem, poetry, princess, Princess Kaguya, queer, Ravel, Richard, San Francisco, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, SF, SF Silent Film, SF Silent Film Fest, SF Silent Film Festival, SFSFF, Shelley, silent, silent era, Silent Film, silent films, silents, south, southern, Tess of the Storm Country, The Artist, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Toniet Gallego, vintage, Walt
Contemporary silent film Claire frames a story of longings once impossible inside a loose adaptation of a Japanese fairy tale. The movie quietly champions the themes of acceptance, fatherhood, and families of choice. The methods used to depict this tale are strictly early twentieth century, and the images they make are a dream-like mix of the quotidian and the mystical. All create a sense of the magic of love.
Claire was inspired by Princess Kaguya, also known as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. In the fairy tale, Princess Kaguya is a changeling child. She’s discovered inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an elderly bamboo cutter wandering the forest. She’s no bigger than his thumb. He brings her home, and since he and his wife are childless, they raise the girl. They begin receiving compensation for the care they’d gladly give for free. Every time he cuts down a bamboo stock, he finds a nugget of gold.
Kaguya grows into a great beauty of normal human size. Despite her parents sheltering her, word of her beauty spreads, and she’s wooed by royalty, who want to marry her and take her away. She refuses by assigning them impossible tasks. She only feels the moon’s pull. While she loves her earthly parents, she cries to be separated from the moon. The tension comes from not knowing how and when she will leave her parents. Changeling children never stay. Will romance or the moon finally take her away from the couple?
Filmmaker Milford Thomas sets his version of this story on an Appalachian farm in the 1920s south. The movie starts with a child’s birthday party. A little girl is surrounded by friends and presents while her proud poppa, Josh (Mish P. DeLight) looks on. Suddenly the party is interrupted by a woman and man glaring reprobation. They take the girl away. Josh wakes up from his nightmare, arms flailing about, in bed. His partner lying next to him, Walt (James Ferguson), takes Josh’s hand, which calms him. We’re next shown scenes of their domesticity as they work their corn farm and live the settled, peaceful life of two elderly people who have been together a very long time.
Josh’s dream shows us the one thing he wants is a child, and his wish is fulfilled one night. He and Walt are startled awake by their animals making noise. When they look out their window to find out what the hullabaloo is about, they see their barn is filled with light. They find a glowing ear of corn inside. While they watch, the husk parts to reveal a glowing miniature, but perfectly proportioned girl (Toniet Gallego). She looks up at them with curiosity and hopefulness. They swaddle her like a baby and bring her into their home. They’re startled awake a third time when furniture gets knocked about. The tiny girl grew into a full-sized one overnight! The couple name her Claire.
Josh and Walt finally have a child to raise and spoil. They throw her a birthday party. They make a cake out of cornmeal. They wrap her present in dried corn husks. Her gift is revealed to be a miniature of their home made out of matchsticks and corn kernels. Inside the house are figurines of each family member. The scene is touching and foreshadowing. Even non-magical girls don’t stay home forever. The local school teacher, Miss Earwood (Anna May Hirsch), wants to send bright Claire away to France to study. Her pupil Richard (Allen Jeffrey Rein) attempts to court Claire, who’s confused about what she wants. She wants to stay with her fathers, but she can’t fight the pull of the moon. She climbs up onto the window sill at night to stare at the moon and cry longingly.
Thomas sets his movie in the past, but the subject of gay fatherhood and adoption remains topical, even though it is more common and acceptable today, yet his film isn’t polemical. In depicting one couple raising one girl, he shows us the love and wonder any father would feel doubled by two. Within the film’s more conservative time period, it’s only the nightmare child snatchers that show disapproval. Whether the townspeople understand Walt and Josh are a couple isn’t made clear, but their neighbors don’t question the men’s ability or motives in raising a girl. That’s not a plot point. Their daughter Claire accepts and loves them for who they are.
Her fathers must accept her for who she is. Every parent reaches the point when he or she must let a child grow up into her own person. Claire has feelings that she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t know what makes her want to leave her earthly home for the moon. It’s painful and confusing for any child to individuate. The story of the changeling who stays a short time with her foster parents mimics the cycle of the adolescent becoming an adult. Within Claire’s magical story is a second universal one.
Thomas’s visuals aren’t as slick as the ones of The Artist or Blancanieves. He employs no expensive digital arts, and his sets are modest. He did not have the same resources as Michel Hazanavicius or Pablo Berger. He gave himself two challenges to make Claire. He had to do it on a limited budget, and he had to do it using vintage equipment.
What’s shown onscreen looks like early vintage filmmaking, and I mean that in the best possible way. He used a Mitchell Standard handcrank camera, the “same type of camera used by cinematographer Charles Rosher to film Mary Pickford in the 1922 Tess of the Storm Country.” Milford overexposed modern monochrome film stocks to get contemporary film to look vintage. He used multiple, in camera exposures to make his special effects. Only an underwater scene was shot on a modern camera. His stylistic influences include Georges Méliès, F.W. Murnau, and D. W. Griffith. Few intertitles are employed, save for a scene where Claire reads a poem by Shelley.
The movie’s soundtrack was recorded live in 2002 at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. It was performed by the Orchestra de Lune, directed by composer Anne Richardson. Her score was influenced by “Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and Aaron Copland.” In writing the score, Richardson said, “The images on the screen often spoke to me, as if the music were already there, waiting to be put down on paper.” Her score is dreamy, emotional, and intimate. The audience’s audible responses are affecting. Their laughs, hisses, and applause gave this home viewer the sensation of watching Claire in a theatre with an audience. How long the hearty applause at film’s end goes on will give anyone the impression of how much some fairy tales are needed.
1. “Groundbreaking Film ‘Claire’ Celebrates a Radical Fairy-tale.” GAVoice. GAVoice, 2 Nov. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
2. “Moving Picture Claire.” Moving Picture Claire. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
3. Hildreth, Richard. “Claire, 2001.” Home. San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 2003. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
4. Phillips Jordan, Julie. “Atlanta Filmmaker’s ‘Claire’ Pays Homage to Silent Cinema.” Athens Banner-Herald. Athens Banner-Herald, 18 Apr. 2002. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
By bethanngallagher in Available on DVD, Clara Bow Tags: 1920s, A. Edward Sutherland, Boardwalk Empire, Clara Bow, comedy, early comedy, Eddie Cantor, Jean Arthur, Jean Harlow, Kid Boots, Love 'Em and Leave 'Em, navy, Paramount, Paramount Pictures, play adaptations, scandal, silents, talkies, The Saturday Night Kid, twenties, vaudeville
We finished watching The Actors: Rare Films Of Clara Bow Volume 3 last night. Kid Boots was a cute Eddie Cantor vehicle. Clara Bow was Cantor’s character’s love interest. They made for a pairing. They actually had chemistry. She brought a breezy, natural quality to a simple role that would have been forgettable except for her. Cantor was funny with the faces and some mild slapstick, but the talkies unfettered his voice, and the marriage of his sound with his image showed how his star power vaulted him out of vaudeville. I never mind hearing any of his jokes that were hoary years before he said them. Maybe Boardwalk Empire will inspire an Eddie Cantor revival.
His silent is a stronger picture than The Saturday Night Kid talkie on the same disc, which we watched the other night. The latter is a curiosity for containing Bow’s speaking voice and featuring three actresses at different stages of their careers–sweet Bow looking a little matronly-but-hot near the end of hers, Jean Arthur whose career wouldn’t pick up speed until the following decade when she hit her mid-to-late thirties, and soon to be a hit Jean Harlow in a bit role in a couple of scenes, including a rooftop party scene where she gets an edit that assures she does not upstage the leading ladies. The film is another adaptation of the play Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em. The first featured Louise Brooks. The second is directed by her ex.
An extra stuck on the disc got to me. There’s an excerpt from Paramount on Parade. Clara Bow sings I’m True to the Navy Now. She looks and sounds great, so the snippet teases of what might have been if Paramount and life had treated her better. She does look up at times, but she is making flirtatious eye gestures, so she might not be showing microphone fear, and her choreography appears to be designed to diminish blocking worries. Whenever she sings, she stays in one spot and sways and undulates her arms. When she marches or fully dances, her naval chorus takes over the vocals. When the seamen lift her up at the end, I got teary seeing the screen queen looking happy and getting feted as she should have. She has such an innocence onscreen, and that makes me both sad and mad that these scenes may read differently to snarky modern audiences familiar with the false smear against her.