By msbethg in Actresses, Fifi D'Orsay, Holidays, Thanksgiving Tags: actress, Broadway, Canadian, Canadian actress, Canadian actresses, Fifi D'Orsay, film, Follies, Follies Bèrgere, French persona, French-Canadian, grateful, Greenwich Village Follies, holiday, holidays, Mademoiselle Fifi, Marie-Rose Angelina Yvonne Lussier, movie, movie theater, movie theatre, musical, ou-la-la, ou-la-la girl, pseudo French, publicity, publicity still, showgirl, Solange LaFitte, Sondheim, stage, Stephen Sondheim, television, Thanksgiving, The French Bombshell, theater, theatre, TV, vaudeville
Things have been hectic at chez Spellbound. We’re moving! As I pack today, my husband’s been cooking our Thanksgiving dinner. While we hadn’t planned to move yet (our landlords are resuming occupancy of our apartment), something stressful has turned into a blessing. We’re relocating to a cool, new home–a loft on the second story of what used to be a movie theatre. We’re grateful for the family and friends who have been supportive through all parts of this process, and we can’t wait to settle into our new home.
I, also, can’t wait to take our turkey out of our oven like Fifi D’Orsay above. Marketed “The French Bombshell,” D’Orsay never set foot in France. She was born in Montréal, and her real name was Marie-Rose Angelina Yvonne Lussier. D’Orsay was clever. When auditioning for the Greenwich Village Follies, she sang her song in French to make herself stand out. She reinvented herself as an ex-Follies Bèrgere showgirl, and the Parisian persona stuck! Her career stretched from vaudeville to Hollywood movies to television to a final return to the stage, only on Broadway. She played Solange LaFitte, a former Follies star, in the Sondheim musical, FOLLIES. A perfect role to cap her career!
While I eat my meal tonight, I’ll take a moment to think of D’Orsay. I’m inspired by her ingenuity and drive, and those are traits I’ll call upon as Hubbs and I make a new home.
By msbethg in Actresses, Holidays, Lillian Roth, Thanksgiving, Thelma Todd Tags: actress, Bay Stater, holiday, holidays, Lillian Roth, Lillian Rutstein, Massachusettsan, Massachusite, Michelle Morgan, publicity, publicity still, publicity stills, still, stills, Thanksgiving, The Ice Cream Blonde, Thelma Todd
By msbethg in 1900s, Actresses, Directors, Easter, Era, Films, Genres, Holidays, Julienne Mathieu, Les oeufs de Pâques, Segundo de Chomón, Silent Film, Trick Films Tags: Abel Gance, actress, actresses, de Chomón, director, directors, Easter, French, Gance, Georges Méliès, holiday, holidays, holidays in movies, Julienne Mathieu, Les oeufs de Pâques, Méliès, novelty, novelty film, novelty films, Pathé, Pathé Frères, Segundo de Chomón, Spanish, surreal, surrealism, trick, trick film, trick films
As an Easter treat, here’s the delightfully magical silent short Les oeufs de Pâques. The film was written and directed by Segundo de Chomón for Pathé Frères. A contemporary of Georges Méliès, de Chomón was often compared to the other director due to their work in trick films, but the Spanish director would go on to work in other genres and for other directors, like Abel Gance. If you’ve seen other French silents from this era, then you might recognize this one’s lead actress Julienne Mathieu. She was de Chomón’s wife, and she started in films before he. She encouraged him to seek film work, so we have both to thank for the creation of this bit of whimsy in more than one way!
By msbethg in Fourth of July, Holidays Tags: 16th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, 4th of July, A Call to Action, Berkeley, Broncho Billy, CA, California, Charlie Chaplin, Charlies Chaplin Days, cheesecake, Crawford, film, film festival, film festivals, film series, films, firework, Fourth of July, Fremont, holiday, Independence Day, Joan, Joan Crawford, July 4, July 4th, Niles, niles essanay silent film museum, Pacific Film Archive, PFA, photo, photograph, photography, publicity, Raoul Walsh, rocket, series, silent, Silent Film, silent films, silents, still
Have a happy Fourth of July! Don’t be like Joan and get too close to fireworks.
After the holiday, expect posts on recent Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum events, Charlie Chaplin Days and the 16th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and the PFA’s Raoul Walsh film series.
By bethanngallagher in Available on DVD, Dance, Fred Astaire, Holiday Movies, Tap Tags: "Fred Astaire", 1942, 4th of July, American, Bing Crosby, celebrations, clips, Dance, dance movies, Fourth of July, Great American Songbook, holiday, Holiday Inn, holidays, Independence Day, jukebox, jukebox musicals, Mark Sandrich, movie, movie musicals, movies, musicals, Say It With Fireworks, song and dance, Tap, tap dance, tapping, United States, United States of America, US, USA
Somehow it’s a little too dry and a little too chilly for fireworks in the Bay Area, but I’m going to wish you a happy Fourth of July and say it with fireworks anyway. From the original jukebox (movie) musical, here is Fred Astaire tapping out his tribute to tomorrow’s holiday:
This is one of my favorite Astaire solos. A little movie magic tricks the eye and the ear, but the moves are all his. I love how happy he looks when done. He’s probably imagining how the finished scene will look, and it is a stand-out in a film full of production numbers.
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!
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By bethanngallagher in Holiday Movies Tags: Alexander Woollcott, Algonquin Round Table, Ann Sheridan, Bette Davis, Billie burke, Christmas, George S. Kaufman, Grant Mitchell, hairdo, hairstyles, holiday, Joan Crawford, Monty Woolley, Moss Hart, movies, Norma Shearer, Ohio, radio, Richard Travis, screen spinsters, Sheridan Whiteside, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Women, unflattering
My husband and I went on a holiday movie spree between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In order to make the roster, the film had to be at least set during a holiday. It needn’t be a holiday classic. I kept putting off watching one of his selections, The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). I’d seen it before when I was much younger, and I wasn’t excited to watch the film again. To me the film should have been called The Bore Who Came to Dinner.
Monty Woolley plays the title character, Sheridan Whiteside. He’s a wit and a well-known radio personality. He milks his fame travelling the country giving lectures and enjoying the hospitality of the famous and/or rich. Basically, he’s a 1940s version of a media darling, save for the darling part. He’s really a holy terror who gives tongue lashings to those he perceives as beneath him or annoying, which would be most people. The few he spares are those rare folk as or more famous than himself. He sickeningly fawns over that small lot.
The plot starts with him visiting a small Ohio town to give a lecture. Before he does, a businessman and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley (Billie Burke and Grant Mitchell) are to host him at dinner. The husband wasn’t looking forward to the dinner, and it turns into a disaster even before it can happen. Whiteside slips on their icy front steps, promises to sue them for criminal negligence for a frightful sum even by today’s standards, and takes their home hostage as he recovers.
He’s accompanied by his personal secretary, Maggie Cutler (Bette Davis). She’s the film’s female romantic lead. The break in her schedule gives her a shot at romance. She gets to know a local reporter Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis). His writing skills go beyond the headline. He’s a budding playwright. Cutler comes to love him and his work, which she champions to an uninterested Whiteside.
It’s interesting to see Davis in the sort of working girl role that Joan Crawford tended to play. Cutler’s role needed someone softer than Crawford, and Davis plays her as the reasonable presence in the household. She’s intelligent, capabale, and underneath her professional shell–nice. Most of her wardrobe are practical and plain, appropriate for a personal secretary. There are no flashy clothes or expensive fabrics that an image conscious star would want.
Davis looks on the older age range of acceptability for the role. Her hairstyle while typical for their period tends to look a little aging and matronly by today’s standards. Her hairdo isn’t as unflattering as Norma Shearer’s in The Women. Travis was slightly younger than Davis, and the camera registers a slightly greater age difference.
This stresses the relationship may be Cutler’s last shot at love. She prepares to leave Whiteside, who refuses to break in a new secretary. He meddles in her love life as well as with the children of his hosts. The film’s second half deals with his machinations, their results, and the fall-out. Since this is a holiday comedy, I don’t think it’s spoilery to say things eventually work-out, but I never buy into the redemption of Whiteside. It’s not completely the fault of the original source material.
George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart wrote the play version of The Man Who Came to Dinner as a tribute and a vehicle for their friend Alexander Woollcott. For the American public, he has the lustre of having been part of the Algonquin Round Table. Kaufman and Hart were inspired by a real-life incident in which Woollcott took over Hart’s home like Sheridan Whiteside takes over the Stanley’s. They knew how Woollcott could entertain and terrorize, and they wrote some sharp lines that reflect that fact.
The fault lies more with Monty Woolley’s performance. He positively revels in Whiteside’s nastiness too much. His white teeth flash beneath his mustache when he clearly enunciates each insult like the bared teeth of a nippy terrier. Whiteside is a man whose intellect and achievement lifted him up from where he started as a cub reporter. The character has a lot of hubris about that, but where lies his charm? I’m not claiming the character has to be softened, but one of the shades needed for the performance is missing. A man like Whiteside is only allowed to continue his bad behavior because he charms, he has to let us in on his side, make us conspirators.
Woolley never does that, so Whiteside’s redemptive moment falls flat. When he gets that figurative mirror held up to his face and is shown all the horrible things he has done, I never got the sense that he was sorry. It seemed more like he couldn’t think of himself of capable of being that base and had to act to compensate for his almost shattered self-image, especially since he reverts back to type at the film’s end. Mr. Stanley was right to grouse about the bore coming to his dinner!