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Happy Birthday, John Waters!

John Waters as William Castle and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford on FX's FEUD

William Castle (John Waters) addressing the crowd at STRAIT-JACKET’s (1964) premiere as Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) listens on FEUD (2017) episode HAGSPLOITATION

I grew up in a John Waters household, so when I caught up with FEUD (2017), I was delighted to watch his cameo as shockmeister William Castle. My parents went to Waters’ movies, and my mom owns an ODODRAMA card gotten at a first run screening of POLYESTER (1981). Living in Massachusetts close enough to The Cape that Provincetown could be a day jaunt, she thinks she shopped in Dreamlander Divine‘s thrift shop, which he ran in his poor, pre-fame days. It was only a matter of time until we shared some of Waters’ movies together. I’ve now seen most of his films and read most of his books.

Which is how I know it was an honor for him to play Castle. Physically, the two men were very different. Waters has remained trim while Castle was heavier in comparison and thicker haired. FEUD show creator Ryan Murphy didn’t want Waters costumed to resemble Castle. No, fat suit as Waters said. Murphy was aware those in this know would delight in how meta it would be for Castle disciple Waters to appear as himself when portraying the other director.

If you haven’t read Castle’s memoir STEP RIGHT UP! I’M GOING TO SCARE THE PANTS OFF AMERICA, you need to. Waters wrote a loving and nostalgic introduction on how seeing Castle’s gimmicky movies as a kid inspired a love of cinema and the outrageous. There’s a joy in both directors’ works at defying convention to pursue their own visions. Keep on reading after the introduction, and you’ll learn a lot about B-movie making on shoestring budgets, including what it was like to work with Joan Crawford on STRAIT-JACKET (1964).

Happy birthday to John Waters, who doesn’t think he’s ever topped William Castle, but got to be him for a day! That must have been his best early birthday present.

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Guess who appears in 13 REASONS WHY (2017)?

13 Reasons Why US Poster

Excitement abounds at Spellbound HQ today! I found out I appear in Netflix‘s new miniseries 13 REASONS WHY (2017). It’s an adaptation of author Jay Asher‘s young adult novel by the same name. When Netflix was filming it in Vallejo, I applied to be a background performer, how the entertainment industry refers to extras.

Here’s how it worked. The casting agency for the show, Glorioso Casting, was booking extras through a website called My Casting File. I created a profile, and I applied for listed extra spots I fit the description for on days I was available. I got more than one availability request, including some I hadn’t applied for, but I wasn’t available for all.

It turns out my one day on the set was my lucky day. In the first episode about eight minutes in I appear in a sequence! My character description was “Background Pedestrian,” but I perform a role quite familiar to me. I’ve posted screenshots below for you to see my scenes in context.

13 Reasons Why Still #1 Red Car Driving Down the Street

Downtown Vallejo’s vintage look makes it a perfect stand-in for the novel’s small town.

 

Characters Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and Tony (Christian Navarro) are in the car.

 

Clay’s attention is drawn to a building they’re passing.

 

It’s the town’s movie theatre, where I’ve just bought a ticket!

 

Yep, this movie blogger plays a patron!

 

The closed caption lyrics on a previous screenshot were correct, Joy Division‘s LOVE WILL TEAR US APART plays over these scenes.

 

I’m almost in the movie theatre.

 

My entering the theatre is a prelude to viewers.

 

Clay’s about to have a flashback involving the interior of the theatre.

So there it is! My first non-credit for appearing in a TV show or movie. I hadn’t read the book, so I didn’t know the importance of the movie theatre to the story’s plot or how I lucked into a likely featured moment.

I’ll be watching more of the series and having fun spotting other locally shot scenes. I’ve already seen a lot of Vallejo and my former neighborhood Mare Island. This is a nice coda to my time living there.

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The Road To TCMFF 2017: Los Angeles Area Classic Film Exhibitions

Kaire Bible and Beth Ann Gallagher in Club TCM TCMFF 2016

Karie Bible and I in Club TCM at TCMFF 2016

If you’re going to the TCM Classic Film Festival, and you’re searching for ways to make the most of your visit, this list is for you! Colleague and friend Karie Bible, founder of the long-respected site covering specialty film-going in Los Angeles Film Radar, and I have compiled selective lists of activities sure to help a film fanatic fill any extra time before and after the fest. Today’s list focuses on time-limited movie-related exhibitions.

Exotica FIDM Exhibit Dramatic Back Gown and Wrap.jpg-large

Image Courtesy of FIDM Museum

EXOTICA: FASHION & FILM COSTUME OF THE 1920s
This is my must-see on our list. Organized by FIDM, EXOTICA highlights international influences on early film costumes. As silent cinema portrayed foreign lands, the requisite wardrobe established characters and settings and off-the-screen inspired real world fashions. Soon sheiks were romancing senoritas, and ladies and gentlemen were lounging in chinoiserie pajamas. Two special pieces on display are Rudolph Valentino’s bolero from BLOOD AND SAND (1922) and a dress designed by his second wife Natacha Rambova. The exhibit runs now through April 22nd and is FREE and open to the public.

LA LA LAND AT FIDM ART OF MOTION PICTURE COSTUME DESIGN

Image Courtesy of FIDM Museum

25TH ANNUAL ART OF MOTION PICTURE COSTUME DESIGN
Also at the FIDM Museum, this exhibit gathers together “more than one hundred costumes from twenty-three films.” Represented films include FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, ALLIED, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, LA LA LAND, FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, and FENCES. You’ll be able to see up close the craftsmanship that went into designing these costumes and how distinct the creations for each film are. Only one film nominated for a 2016 Academy Award for Best Costume Design is not represented by a display, JACKIE. Admission is FREE.

Jean Harlow Hollywood’s First Blonde Bombshell Exhibit

Image Courtesy of The Hollywood Museum

JEAN HARLOW: HOLLYWOOD’S FIRST BLONDE BOMBSHELL
This exhibit recently opened at the Hollywood Museum on Highland. That is within walking distance down the street from the TCMFF. The show features Harlow’s 1932 Packard, a costume from BOMBSHELL (1933), memorabilia, and other rare items. Adult admission is $15. Seniors, students, and children receive discounted entry. The exhibit will run for several months. Bonus: The museum is located in the Max Factor Building, designed by architect S. Charles Lee in the “Hollywood Regency Art Deco style.”

The Birth of Motion Pictures An Illustrated History of Silent Cinema 1910-1929 Exhibit

THE BIRTH OF THE MOTION PICTURES: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF SILENT CINEMA 1910-1929
This exhibit is further away and is open for limited hours Wednesdays through Sundays, so it requires extra time and planning to visit, but if you love silent film or the art of movie poster illustration, you should try to fit it into your schedule. The show is being held in the town of Brea, California, about one hour outside of Los Angeles. It features rare silent film posters and an actual Academy Award from the silent era! Much of the material on display is rare and shown on loan from a private collector. The limited edition catalog, sure to become a collectible, has been called “a masterpiece” by Silent Film Quarterly. Admission is $3, and the exhibit closes on April 14.

Stay tuned for the  next The Road To TCMFF 2017 featuring classic film-related events!

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FEUD & the Costuming of Bette Davis, What I’ll be Watching for

Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis in FEUD Smoking

FEUD premieres tonight on FX, and like many classic film fans, I’m watching to see how legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are portrayed, and I’ll be paying particular attention to one area of costuming.

Susan Sarandon plays Davis. The latter actress, while capable of glamour and being beautiful onscreen, always favored her performances over the strictures of the star machine that led more wary or canny actresses to compromise on characterization in favor of not lowering beauty standards too far. Davis felt no restriction. She wanted her Mildred Rogers in OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1934) to look as sickly as possible when the script called for that, and she pushed for her WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) costume to be more extreme than as originally designed.

Sarandon has shown a willingness to deglam onscreen for the right roles, but offscreen she’s been a poster girl for not looking her age or letting it determine whether she should be sexy on the red carpet and how. A favorite outfit of hers to wear to movie launches, so much so it’s almost a uniform, is a suit with no shirt worn underneath its jacket, often leaving a pretty bra visible for all to see. If her bra isn’t in view, its push-up effects leave no doubt of its presence.

I’m finding it ironic that an actress sartorially famous for her bras and gravity defying chest is playing one who eschewed underwire bras, despite being as generously endowed. As the recent Orry-Kelly documentary, WOMEN HE’S UNDRESSED (2015) revealed Davis was convinced wearing underwire caused breast cancer. The costume designer was left having to camouflage that the leading lady was undersupported or braless by “using foulards, pockets, buttons, and other visual tricks.”

So while I’m watching FEUD, I’m going to be looking at Sarandon’s silhouette to see if series costume supervisor Katie Saunders incorporated this particular quirk when approving designs. Like Davis knew, it’s paying attention to the little details that help a performer build and inhabit a character.

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