Monday, December 21, 2009

Gone with the Wind Meets the Middle East

"Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes." ~John LeCarre

Gone with the Wind is not my favorite movie in the world. Not by any means. There is also a perfectly logical reason for this--the book is one of my absolute favorites and I read it long before I saw the movie. I was truly horrified the first time I saw Gone with the Wind. Now, having gotten used to it some, I like it fairly well, and a few weeks ago I took it to school because we were studying the American Civil War. Well, actually, the real reason we wanted to watch it is the fact that it is nearly four hours long, which equals at least four study-free classes, enough to win over the most anti-old stuff people in my class. In fact, one of the anti-est ones of them all suggested we watch it in the first place.

The first thing I can say based on this experiment is that GWTW is possibly the worst movie to show to non-native English speakers. (I live in Kuwait.) I'm sure that if my classmates had been able to decipher the characters' accents, they would have understood all the words. But let's put it this way: my own grandmother, who is American, saw Harry Potter 6 with me this summer and understood nothing of the first ten minutes, thanks to the actors' British accents. And yes, she can hear fine. Just imagine a foreigner trying to figure out southern accents and southern black accents. And, admittedly on a ten year old tape with commercials and sorta bad sound.

Suprisingly, the people who actually watched GWTW intently enough to figure it out liked it. We never finished it, but one girl found the video online and later told me she cried over the end. And everybody thought Clark Gable was ugly. Good. I don't get his appeal one bit--I just can't decide whether it's an ape or a loving cup he looked like. And of course, Leslie Howard never stood a chance. GWTW should win an award for most unappealing men.

Perhaps the funniest thing that happened was at the beginning, when Gerald O'Hara rides home to Tara, where Vivien Leigh waits for him. I had provided some background to my classmates--basically that it was a love story--and at the sight of Gerald, one girl cried out, "Please don't tell me that's the guy she falls in love with!" :-) Speaking of Gerald, one thing most of my more modern friends never fail to point out is how unrealistic his death is by contemporary standards. I'm not sure that's true...but it shows how much modern movies put their characters through without them actually getting harmed. And of course there were several death predictions. Surprisingly, a couple people even thought Scarlett was going to die. An interesting alternate ending. Scarlett would never have killed herself, but say Bonnie had never been born, Melanie had died as usual while Scarlett was visiting family or something, Ashley and Scarlett had become lovers, and Rhett, in a jealous rage, had shot them both. Akkh. Methinks I should stay away from fan fiction.

Anyway, the only fair thing to do is give a thorough critique explaining why I think Gone with the Wind is not all it's cracked up to be. My main complaint is that the screenwriters did a poor job with the themes of the story and focused more on jamming as many events as they could into the film while leaving out the reasons they were initially there. It would be ridiculous to expect a movie to be a carbon copy of its book, but I firmly believe that themes should be pared down, with a select few emphasized in a film, rather than to have remnants of all the themes present in a book but without much impact. For this reason, I feel GWTW lacks coherence. There is probably a lot there that seems unimportant to people who have never read the book. And for some reason, the screenwriters purposely put in a few things that further lessened the impact of plot. Some examples of both:

Most of Scarlett's stay in Atlanta prior to her flight to Tara. Of course, she needs to be in Atlanta, but what happens during this time in the book could be called the Corruption of Scarlett. Here she falls under Rhett's influence and we see Rhett's popularity rise and plummett in Atlanta society. You don't get much sense of this in the movie. According to my mother, you get the feeling Scarlett was always the way she was. Of course, that could all have been left out. But then why would the scene where Rhett gives Scarlett a green hat have been included? Does the movie make it clear that by wearing the bonnet Scarlett is scandalizing Atlanta because she has come out of mourning years before it is proper? What about when she dances at the bazaar? Did you realize that Scarlett eventually takes everything Rhett says to her about reputations and such to heart? Do you realize that before her relationship to Rhett Scarlett cares far more about propriety? Do you realize that Rhett is considered an incredibly wicked man after the glamourous mist surrounding his blockade running evaporates? I feel that they are only hinted at in the film. And worse still, almost all of them are hinted at. So you get are too many things going on that seem to have little bearing on the overall plot.

Rhett declares his love far too often. One of the main reasons his and Scarlett's relationship doesn't work is because each think the other doesn't love them. The main scene I am talking about is right before Bonnie's death when Rhett declares his love to Scarlett and suggests she sells the mills. Sadly, it doesn't work for Scarlett to have known Rhett loved her before he leaves her. This would mean that if she thought about it, she would have realized why Rhett did all the things he did that she dismissed. Like their wild night. At first, she thinks, "Oh, I've got him now, he really does love me!" but he convinces her he was simply being despicable. The way Scarlett acts here, thinking Rhett loves her, seems out of character compared to her reaction later. Rhett also shows a bit too much emotion for us to buy Scarlett's willingness to believe he doesn't care for her. She would have to be quite unintelligent to not be triumphant and superior when she kicks Rhett out of her bed and he breaks down the door. That is the way Scarlett acts when she thinks she's "got somebody." First, he says he doesn't care. Then, obviously he does. Scarlett reacts to the first point but not to the second. Not very credible, in my opinion.

Scarlett's marriage to Charles. The reason given for this in the movie is Scarlett does this to hurt Ashley. However, they also include the scene where India, Melanie, and a few other girls talk about Scarlett behind her back as they walk down the stairs, much to Scarlett's dismay. There are a few things wrong with this. Scarlett is upset by their words, but she isn't really the type to be bothered by the things people she doesn't like say. Why exactly is she upset in this scene? It should be fairly obvious to her that people know she likes Ashley Wilkes because they have said as much--Mammy and Suellen, for example. In the book, the real reason she is upset is because she had not realized anyone knew about her feelings for Ashley. When she finds out India Wilkes does know (in the book, it's Honey Wilkes) she thinks she'll be the laughingstock of Jonesboro and her family will be ashamed of her (remember her father telling her not to run after a man who doesn't love her?). This is one of the main reasons for her impulsive marriage. Scarlett reasons that marrying Charles will: a. Make India look like a fool for thinking she loves Ashley, b. Convince Ashley she was only flirting with him, c. Get back at India because she's the one engaged to Charles, and d. Get back at Melanie by marrying her stupid, naive brother. There would have been nothing wrong if the screenwriters had only had hurting Ashley be Scarlett's motivation, but then the staircase scene sh have been left out.

Scarlett's nightmare. I believe this should have been left out entirely. GWTW would have been too complicated had the symbolism of the dream been elaborated on to the point where it had the proper impact. In the book, it has two purposes. First, it shows how Rhett comforts Scarlett in much the same manner he later comforts Bonnie; and second, it parallels Scarlett's search for security. The movie could easily have handled the Bonnie theme without Scarlett having nightmares and the search for security is basically left out. Have you ever wondered why there is so much fog in the ending scene? That is because in the book, Scarlett is actually experiencing her dream in real life. She always dreamed she was running through the mist, looking for something, but she never knew what it was, only that she had to find it. In the end, she realizes this thing is Rhett, the one person who has never let her down. Without knowing that, the dream motif is meaningless in the film.

Rhett's proposition. This was a scene obviously left out because of the censors, but I believe it would have been worth figuring out a subtle way to get the meaning of the scene across, like they did with the green dress in the jail part. I think it should have been put in because it is drawn upon in at least two scenes later. First of all, the green dress scene, when Scarlett says, "You once said you wanted me." If Rhett had never asked Scarlett to be his mistress, she would have been taking quite a risk by assuming this--and, if she had deduced this, why does she fail to realize just how much Rhett cares for her? The other scene is when Rhett proposes to Scarlett and she doesn't take him seriously. In the book, she thinks he's asking her to be his mistress again. She doesn't have much of a reason to think he's joking in the movie.

Leasing convicts. Well, it has a small purpose, but I think Scarlett's corruption would have been better illustrated if they had elaborated on something they had already mentioned--like the mills, pressing old friends for money, riding around unchaperoned, etc. The rest of the plotlines concerning the convicts were left out, and they had more meaning than the simple fact that Scarlett leased convicts.

These things may seem small in themselves, but there are probably more of them, and they weaken the plot and make the entire movie far less moving. If GWTW had had some focus, more theme development, and fewer themes so that would have been possible, it would have been a remarkable film. Of course, I can't say there aren't several positive aspects to GWTW. It does a fair job adapting the plot, it's interesting for three and a half hours, and the clothing and people are gorgeous. I'm writing an extremely negative review because there are so few of them. Where are all the other dissenters? I know I'm not the only one. Isn't there someone who dislikes the movie for artistic reasons and not because of racism or melodrama? Anybody?

And merry Christmas, by the way. :)

Rating: 7/10

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lily Lemontree is a Darling

Yesterday, after I lost a follower, I figured I'd sure better clean up my blogging act and get around to posting something once in a bloody while. Undeniably, you people don't get a whole lot to read from this blog. (Which is maybe a good thing? Huh. ) The interesting part is I have no excuse for neglecting everyone. I've been on holiday all this past week, with absolutely nothing to do, and instead of doing something fun like blogging, I've been reading about the origins of the Abrahamic religions. Actually, it's absolutely fascinating, as well as having a great deal of personal significance, but it isn't exactly the same as spending my time away from the Hell that is School doing something un-scholarly. However, for those of us wishing above of all else we lived in the past, I can now say that there is a very positive aspect to the present, which is that the internet has made all sorts of information available to us that average people don't know and wouldn't want to tell us if they did. It makes me shudder to think of the things people could have told me fifty years ago that I would be unable to prove right or wrong.

Okay, enough with that.

The real point of this post is to say thank you very, very much to Lily Lemontree (who happens to run a delightful blog) for giving me an award.

Here are the rules:

1. Link to who gave you the award.
2. Give the award to 7 blogs you love.
3. Let the people you have awarded know.

I give this award to:
  1. Millie of Classic Forever. She runs a great blog, with plenty of style related posts. This was an obvious choice for me.
  2. Harley of Dreaming in Black and White. The same goes for Harley. In fact, she writes more about classic style than classic movies, which I think is great. And I absolutely trust fashion advice from people who admire Grace Kelly.
  3. All the lovely ladies of Spiffy. It is an excellent guide to modernized vintage style, and it introduced me to a fabulous site, ModCloth.
  4. Baroness Von Vintage of Tea with the Vintage Baroness. This blog is pure vintage fashion. It has awesome pictures.
  5. Magaly of Modern Starlet. More great pictures plus a wider range of style related posts. I get a strong feeling of the atmosphere of the past from this blog, not just the clothes.
  6. Sarah of Glamor a-go-go. Her blog is a strong dose of sixties style!
  7. Nicole of Classic Hollywood Nerd. Supposedly nerds don't have much style sense. That is either not true, or Nicole has named her blog wrong.
Congratulations to everyone!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If Life Were a Classic Movie...

  1. You would magically wake up looking better than you did when you went to sleep.
  2. You would lose jewelry all the time because it would never take more than a tug to undo the catch.
  3. You would perfect the art of looking beautiful while drunk, ill, or both.
  4. No matter how much you'd swish your hair around, it would never get messed up. As a matter of fact, everyone would talk about how sexy you were because of it.
  5. People would be perfectly divided into "nice" and "bad." Nice boys would quickly get tired of girls who liked kissing all the time, particularly if they looked like Lana Turner.
  6. All it would take were three kisses and one fade out to get you pregnant.
  7. Your average soldier would look either like Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, or Burt Lancaster.
  8. People would randomly burst into song, particularly over dinner or on the street in the rain.
  9. Kissing would result in lipstick getting on the man, but not actually getting smeared off the woman.
  10. You would be able to spot rebels a mile away by their hair.
  11. There would be no such thing as someone badly dressed...only someone dressed in a perfectly bad way.

There should so be a tag for this if there isn't already. If there really isn't, everyone who reads this is tagged.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quotes and Such for November

What with school and work in full swing, everyone could do with some cheering up around this time of year. Here is a collection of quotes, pictures, videos, etc. that are intended to make people feel better. Please excuse the disorganization.
Elizabeth Taylor:
"I am a very committed wife. And I should be committed too - for being married so many times."

"You find out who your real friends are when you're involved in a scandal. "

"The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues. "

Bob Hope:
"A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it."

"A James Cagney love scene is one where he lets the other guy live. "

"I do benefits for all religions - I'd hate to blow the hereafter on a technicality."

I have a wonderful make-up crew. They're the same people restoring the Statue of Liberty. "

"You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake. "

Cary Grant:
"I improve on misquotation."

"I pretended to be somebody I wanted to be until finally I became that person. Or he became me."

"Do your job and demand your compensation - but in that order. "

Lucille Ball:
"It's a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy."

Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead. "

"I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done. "

Warren Beatty:
"My notion of a wife at 40 is that a man should be able to change her, like a bank note, for two 20s." (!)

"Marriage requires a special talent, like acting. Monogamy requires genius. " (!!)

Bette Davis:
"A sure way to lose happiness, I found, is to want it at the expense of everything else."

"Brought up to respect the conventions, love had to end in marriage. I'm afraid it did."

"I am just too much."

With the newspaper strike on, I wouldn't consider dying."

A Streetcar Named Desire

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gloves Need to Come Back in Style

While recently trying to figure out how to dress like Audrey Hepburn in Charade, I made a discovery. Nothing I could think up out of my own closet was anywhere near as elegant, and I could think of nothing to buy that would be either. Then, I made another discovery. There were two things that Audrey Hepburn had that I did not, and they were one glove on each hand. Well, to be literal, I do have one pair of vintage leather gloves in beige, but I would never wear them out because people would look at me like some kind of a freak. And that happens often enough as it is, thank you. Far be it from me to purposely attract that kind of attention.

But anyway, I tried on a few things with the gloves, and it made all the difference in the world. That is both a good thing and a bad thing, good because it means that not looking elegant can just be blamed on current fashion, but it's a bad thing because until gloves come back in style (if!), nobody can be impeccably well-dressed. Sadly, it doesn't seem likely, so to relieve my feelings I am blogging about it. (Be glad I'm not blogging about other feelings that could do with relieving.)
A few pictures:

The idea that certain aspects of vintage fashion would make us all look better dressed is not limited only to gloves. The list could go on and on. I can think of a few:
  • Skirts. Not that they are no longer worn, but they are worn far less often than they used to be. I don't really understand why...they are more flattering than pants, comfortable, and some guys have said they prefer them.
  • Hats. They add about as much to an outfit as gloves do, but they also add a lot to your face, if you choose the right ones. I cannot say much about hats; the fact that they are never worn except for winter, sports, or the beach makes me ill.
  • Suits for casual wear. Nowadays there is hardly any such thing as a casual suit, or a suit that looks casual even when it is. Last February, I bought a tweed suit for a completely ridiculously cheap price, but I have discovered that wearing it anywhere could only not look out of place unless I carry a sign saying "One-Girl Freak Show." So, I have not worn it once. I am quite sore about that.
  • Casual dresses. So easy to wear, so flattering, but almost nonexistant, or so it seems. Why can't people satisfy their desire for casualness by wearing dresses made out of casual fabric, instead of sacrificing all nice clothes??
  • Natural looking makeup. You don't see this very often among many "vintage revivalist" people--they exaggerate their makeup quite a lot--but genuine classic makeup looks are usually a dramatization of natural coloring. It looked like the way people really look, just more so. At least, that is true of the forties and fifties.
  • Stockings. Seamed or not, what a difference they make! Honestly, how many of us have pretty skin on our legs? I tend to have a few light bruises that pop out out of nowhere, and that's all it takes to look a bit ugly. Also, tights are far more popular than vintage style thigh-highs, which are impractical, but so much more comfortable. And God knows knee highs are too short for anything useful.
  • Medium-toned skin. I don't get some people's dedication to being pale to the point of being faintly blue, but it makes more sense than orange tans. And tanning was fashionable even as far back as the twenties, there was just more balance.
I am sure there are a lot of things you can add to this list. Please do! Or, better yet, write a post about it. Consider yourself tagged.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A..Bad?...Picture of...Grace Kelly??

It sounds impossible, doesn't it? Her candids do not look bad:

Pictures of her on a bad hair day do not look bad:

Even when her arms look quite hairy she does not look bad:

Of all the pictures I have ever seen of Grace Kelly, none of them look bad...except one:

And the sad thing is, if I saw a picture of myself that looked like that, I would be happy. (Although I would rather wonder who snapped a photo of me...undoing my shirt?? Judging by the rest of the photos in this shoot, this red thing is a jacket or a heavy sweater, but it sure doesn't look like it here.) I am not doing this post out of disrespect for HSH, but because she was so beautiful any photo of her looking like an average person is bad compared to all the pictures of her looking like a goddess. Many such photos are ahead. Prepare yourself, because I need a pic spam fix baaaad.

Friday, October 16, 2009

James Dean

Male style icons are, in my opinion, more unique personalities than fantastically dressed people. Their clothes, ideas, and acting combine to form a non-fashion related style. James Dean is an awesome example of this. Few people are as hung up with dressing like him as they are with acting like him--but a closer look reveals that his clothes matched the attitude that made him so popular. What attitude exactly? A rebellious, modern, and vaguely dangerous one. Perhaps James Dean encouraged 1950s teenagers to be borderline delinquents, but he only had this effect because that is what they already were, and by being the same way, he validated their position and painted it as a legitimate way to be. He was a total glorified bad boy, but he always seemed to mean well. A sympathetic rebel, and that is how all rebels feel about themselves. No wonder he made such a hit with teenagers and still resonates today.

My real purpose is not to analyze the causes and effects of the James Dean phenomenon but to talk about his clothes and his image. Certainly you couldn't have expected a scholarly, unfrivolous post from this me. In the future, you should know better. Anyway, the easiest way to get my point across would be to do a pic spam, but that isn't at all sufficient or in-depth, so I shall try to write a paragraph for each picture and point out some things you might not have noticed, if I notice them myself (not likely). If you like this, please tell me, because if I get the feeling no one cares for this format, I won't do it very often.
"It takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression."
--Cary Grant

Here we see a lot of the elements that were part of Jimmy's persona. This picture was taken in some sort of art room or gallery and he is posing similarly to the statue on the table behind him, representative of his artistic side. It is also a very modern photo--it practically could have been taken yesterday--and the colors of Jimmy's clothes are an essential part of this. The combination of cool dark blue and white is very sleek, colors which also happen to be brought out by the color of the statue, the table, and the hazy background. If you have seen modern movies that take place in the past, something that keeps them from looking completely authentic is the tint of the film, which is often blue or gray in today's movies, but was yellowish seventy years ago. The blue tint here lends a very modern touch.

Here I see a distinct Brando resemblance around the mouth, but that is beside the point. Instead, notice the minimalist combination of brown and white, the leather rather than metal watch band, the lack of a tie, and the hair. The extremely messy polar opposite of your typical boy next door's hair. There is nothing precise or polished about this image. However, it has a similar quality as Grace Kelly's snow-covered volcano persona. Jimmy may be wearing a suit, but beneath it he is his sensual, untamed self.

The same contradiction is present here. Jimmy is wearing a suit in the same sleek brown and white, but the jacket's off and he's sitting on a hot car (hot in no small part because he's on it) with his hair messed up as usual. In so many pictures, the background color seems selected to set off the modern, clean colors of his clothing--in this picture, that is done by the cream car and the brown thing sticking up in the back. Also see the lace up boots, which add a rugged touch to the outfit.

This picture is hard to see, but it does show a few things. As elegant a shot as it may be, the modern coloring is all that saves Jimmy from looking like a near tramp. That and the fact that the clothes he is wearing are actually very nice...just wrinkled and very casually put together.

See the clean line of the black t-shirt, the contrast caused by the sunlight streaming through the odd curtains, the moody look, the unshaven face (you see that SO often now), and the messy eyebrows. He looks properly untouched up--but considering how different most men in the fifties were styled up for photos, this was probably a more offbeat shot. Have you ever seen Cary Grant this way? I haven't even seen Marlon Brando like this. I can't think of anybody famous before James Dean who posed so naturally--and by natural I mean without the dressings and stiffness of a typical movie star.

To finish it off, here are four photos of James Dean that I believe show four sides of his image that were important to his success:

The Tough Rebel

The No-Explanation-Necessary

The Vulnerable Little Boy Lost

And The Gorgeous Face

(the very, very gorgeous face)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Classic Cinema Survey

These are my answers to the questions on Amanda Cooper's (From Noodle in a Haystack) survey. This is a lovely survey and I am honored to be filling it out!

1. What is your all-time favorite Clark Gable movie?

He's not someone whose movies I ever seek out, so I may have to settle with Gone with the Wind here, although it is certainly not one of my favorite movies in general.

2. Do you like Joan Crawford best as a comedienne or a drama-queen?

Drama Queen, definitely.

3. In your opinion, should Ginger Rogers have made more musicals post-Fred Astaire?

Yes, because if she had, she might not be so often referred to as "Fred and Ginger."

4. I promise not to cause you bodily (or any other serious) harm if you don't agree with me on this one. So please be honest: do you like Elizabeth Taylor? Hm?

No, not really, though I have tried. I just don't find her very sympathetic on screen, or in real life. It is encouraging to us bump-beaked girls, however, that she should be considered such a phenomenal beauty and have a small bump on her nose.

5. Who is your favorite offscreen Hollywood couple?

Probably Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

6. How about onscreen Hollywood couple?

Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. I love all their funny lines in Charade, particularly:

Grant: Oh, you should see your face.
Hepburn: What's the matter with it?
Grant: It's lovely.

7. Favorite Jean Arthur movie?

Well, I've only seen one, Too Many Husbands, and I didn't like it.

8. What was the first Gregory Peck movie you saw?

Roman Holiday

9. What film made you fall in love with Alfred Hitchcock? (And for those of you that say, "I don't like Hitchcock" -- what is wrong with you?!)


10. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaption?

East of Eden, however, I have not read the book, so I cannot fully judge.

11. Do you prefer Shirley Temple as a little girl or as a teenager?

Little girl, absolutely.

12. Favorite character actor?

Perhaps Agnes Moorehead; Shirley Maclaine if she counts.

13. Favorite Barbara Stanwyck role?

Double Indemnity

14. Who is your favorite of Cary Grant's leading ladies?

Audrey Hepburn

15. Bette Davis or Joan Crawford?

Joan Crawford, but I don't like either of them. I am seriously choosing Joan because I love some of her shoes from the 1930s. And because of this picture:

16. What actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated?

Most of 'em except the obvious iconic ones. Among the classic film community, I would say Natalie Wood

17. What actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated?

Marilyn Monroe, especially by her genuine fans. No one can say she didn't have her charms, but she has practically been canonized--only by some people, but still. I infinitely prefer her in her Norma Jeane years.

18. Do you watch movies made pre-1980 exclusively, or do you spice up your viewing-fare with newer films?

I watcher modern films too, but not too often.

19. Is there an actor/actress who you have seen in a film and immediately loved? If so, who?

Ava Gardner after seeing Mogambo, but it didn't last long.

20. Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire?


21. Favorite Ginger Rogers drama?

Considering that I have only seen half of Stage Door and none of her other nonmusical movies, I cannot say.

22. If you wrote a screenplay, who would be in your dream cast and what roles would they play? (Mixing actors and actresses from different generations is allowed: any person from any point in their career.)

I would have a sort of Little Women-esque drama transposed to the nineteen forties and made a lot more glamorous with Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood as sisters, Grace Kelly as their mother, Cary Grant as their father, Montgomery Clift and Paul Newman as their future husbands, and Rita Hayworth as their perpetual friend in need.

23. Favorite actress?

Natalie Wood, then Audrey Hepburn.

25. Favorite actor?

Montgomery Clift, sometimes James Dean is a near second.

26. And now, the last question. What is your favorite movie from each of these genres:

Drama: East of Eden or From Here to Eternity

Romance: Splendor in the Grass or An Affair to Remember

Musical: My Fair Lady

Comedy: Bringing up Baby

Western: I never watch westerns because I generally hate them. Perhaps the only one I've ever seen that I enjoyed is High Noon.

Hitchcock (he has a genre all to himself): Spellbound