Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Maven's Movie Rating System

I have decided to post my movie rating system today since I'll be posting reviews in the days to come besides the behind-the-scenes that I've been sharing! . . .
My categories can best be described as:
1. Wannasee
2. Mustsee
3. Gottahave
4. Nuh-huh
We all know the films that we've heard about that we--or other people--think worth watching.
Then there are the classics, like Maltese Fallcon, that we can't pass up.
These frequently turn into movies that we want to add to our collections or we may buy them without ever having seen them on recommendation.
The movies that have turned into the "Nuh-uhs" can be as valuable in their way as the others. We have learned never to bother with that movie again, for starters.
You can sell them, trade them or decide to keep
them.
I have done this with the likes of D.W. Griffith's early "Intolerance" and "Birth of a Nation." They aren't easy moviesto watch because the acting tends to be so over the top but they do show the beginnings of how actors performed in front of the camera in the early days.
Such movies also represent benchmarks of a pioneer in Hollywood.
^ ^ ^
You may have your own rating system that you can have fun comparing with mine as we get back to our popcorn, sodas, candy and our vcrs and DVDs!
Good Watching!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart movies are on
Turner Classic Movies cable
channel all day tomorrow
(August 31st). You might like
a little background material
from Frank Westmore's
biography of his family
"The Westmores of Hollywood,"
Lippincott, 1976, pages 22-24:
(Courtesy of www.humphreybogart.com )
Maybe the best example of the kind of influence the Westmores could have on the making of a movie was provided by my brother Perc (pronounced "Purse"). Perc had more clout in the industry than any other Westmore; sometimes he was called the fifth Warner Brother.
One night early in 1945, Perc's boss, Jack Warner, called him at home. He had just had a terrible fight with his biggest male star, Humphrey Bogart, Warner explained. Bogart had flatly refused to show up in the morning to start his next picture, "Conflict." "Bogie says," Warner told Perc, "that he won't do the movie because his co-star, Alexis Smith, is too tall. Now you know that isn't why he doesn't want to do the film."
Perc knew. Just the year before Bogart had fallen madly in love with a young New York actress with whom he had co-starred in her first movie, "To Have and Have Not." Her name, Betty Joan Perske, had been changed to Lauren Bacall. Bogart was determined to change Betty's name once more, to Bogart. The hitch was that he was still married to Mayo Methot, and the wild brawls he was having with May over her attempts to block a divorce were hitting the newspapers almost as often as Bogie and Mayo were hitting each other. During that time, Perc frequently had to apply makeup very skillfully to some of Bogart's bruises.
Warner told Perc that Bogart was going to walk out on his contract, the studio, his entire career. He was a rich man anyway, and he just didn't give a damn. "You're the only one I can count on. Do something," Warner ordered Perc.
Perc hung up and immediately called Bogart at his home. The beleaguered actor answered by saying, "Now what?" thinking it was Warner again. Perc plaintively told Bogie it was his birthday (although it was actually seven months away) and that he was alone and depressed. Would Bogie come out and have some drinks with him? Not without some suspicion, Bogart agreed, saying, "But if that son of a bitch Warner thinks you can make me change my mind, he's crazy and so are you."
Next, Perc called the Westmores' favorite dining and watering hole, Don the Beachcomber, then the "in" restaurant in Hollywood. (Special ivory chopsticks with names hand etched on them were made for special customers. Mine and all my brothers' are still there, encased in a glass breakfront.) On the phone Perc ordered a pair of personalized chopsticks for Bogart and instructed the bartender to serve Bogart with his usual navy grogs but to make every second drink of Perc's plain fruit punch.
An hour later, Perc and Bogie arrived and were seated, at Perc's instructions, in a booth at the back of the big room where it was so dark they could hardly see each other across the table.
Along abut his fourth navy grog (to Perc's two), Bogie abandoned his vilification of Jack Warner and launched into a maudlin rehash of his love problems. He cried. Perc cried too. On Bogie's next potent drink, Perc uncorked his Bogie. Few people knew, least of all the movie stars, that Perc had a lifetime contract with Warner Brothers as head of their makeup department, breakable only by Perc himself, so what Perc said sounded believable. "I got you here under false pretenses, I guess," he confessed. "Warner did call me tonight. And he fired me. Said if you weren't going to report for work, there's no need for me. But that's all right. I've got a few bucks. 'Course, it's all tied up in our beauty shop, The House of Westmore, and we maybe can't make the next mortgage payment, but that's okay, too. I'll always manage. Wally may be able to find a place for me at Paramount combing wigs or something."
Bogie picked up his brand-new chopsticks and hurled them across the room. "I told you that bastard Warner is a son of a bitch," he snarled. "Well, I'll fix him. I'll make that movie."
The next morning a badly hung-over Bogart reported to the makeup department. Perc, immaculate as always in his white doctor's coat, did his makeup. Only once during the shooting of the film did Bogie complain. "Alexis Smith is too tall." he told Perc. "I have to stand on a box to kiss her."
. . .
Dang! I don't even want to
THINK of the language that
Humphrey Bogart would
have used if he'd found
out what Perc Westmore
had done to him!

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Westmores of Hollywood

"The Westmores of Hollywood"
was written by Frank Westmore
[and Muriel Davidson] about
his family and published by
Lippincott in 1976.
They were not only know as
incredible makeup artists and
wigmakers, they also married
into Hollywood: Bud Westmore
married Martha Raye and
Rosemary Lane (with whom
he had a daughter).
Perc Westmore married
Gloria Dickson, who was in
such diverse movie's as "The
Crime Doctor's Strangest
Case" and "The Lady of
Burlesque."
From pages 15 to 17:
My father, George, founded the first movie makeup department in history in 1917 and was one of the recognized giants of the early days of silent films. At one time or another, a Westmore headed up the makeup departments at Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, RKO, 20th Century-Fox, Selznick, Eagle-Lion, First National, and a dozen other movie lots that once flourished in the industry. The Westmores' artistry in creating ingenious horror and aging makeups helped change the movies from a make-believe to a realistic medium. For thirty years the private family-run House of Westmore on Sunset Boulevard was the most famous beauty salon in the world. Various Westmores were intimates of such stars as Clara Bow, Douglas Fairbanks, Bette Davis, Robert Mitchum, Spencer Tracy, Ray Milland, Bing Crosby, James Stewart, Shirley MacLaine, John Barrymore, Elizabeth Taylor, Fred Astaire, William Holden, Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino, and the Carradines, John through David. Many of these stars would not make important career decisions with out first consulting the appropriate Westmore. Clark Gable paid us the supreme accolade of removing his false teeth in our presence. Cecil B. DeMille wouldn't make a film without a Westmore by his side. . . .
(Courtesy of http://northernblue.ca.)
[Mary] Pickford commissioned George Westmore to make dozens of long twisted sausage curls to supplement her own long but baby-fine hair. (America's Sweetheart never knew that my dad obtained most of the hair he used from the heads of the prostitutes in Big Suzy's French Whorehouse.) Mary would be chauffeur-driven to Father's tiny one-chair beauty shop on Holly wood Boulevard, where she would sit for hours, watching in fascination, while he fashioned her hairpieces. He painstakingly wrapped the golden hair around a smooth round stick to the exact length of the curl he wanted to fabricate. Around that, he applied damp toilet paper. Then the curl would be set aside to dry. When the curl was taken off the stick, not one hair was out of place. Then, with just one hairpin, George would strategically place the false curl among the strands of Mary's own hair. He even made a leather carrying case to house his creations when she traveled. She really needed the fake curls then, because all too often a zealous fan would come at there with a pair of scissors and snip of a hunk of her hair for a souvenir. Dad couldn't have been happier about that. He soaked Miss Pickford fifty bucks a lock.
These days just TRY to find a
woman with hair that long,
much less one who wants
to "dress her hair" like
they used to do.
We won't even discuss
finding toilet paper that
would hold up!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sunset Boulevard

"Sunset Boulevard" is being aired tonight at
10:00 P.M. (EDT) on Turner Classic Movies
Cable Channel.
So I am excerpting part of Gloria Swanson's
autobiography, "Swanson on Swanson;
"Random House; 1980; New York; page 481.
[Gloria Swanson in her bravura
performance as Norma Desmond,
". . . The tone of the piece was a mixture of gothic eeriness and nostalgia for the old Hollywood of the twenties. For Norma Desmond's butler and ex-husband, they had signed Erich von Stroheim. For a group of old friends--referred to as 'the waxworks' by Joe Gillis [played by William Holden]--who arrive to play bridge with Norma, they had signed Anna Q. Nilsson, H.B. Warner, and Buster Keaton. . . .
[Norma Desmond up in arms,
courtesy of www.dvdjournal.com]
"For Norma's house they had rented a marvelous twenties palace in the Renaissance style from Jean Paul Getty; and they were going to shoot the scenes of Mr. De Mille right on the set of the picture he was currently making, 'Samson and Delilah.' Mr. De Mille's secretary told me he was having her cue him daily on his lines and that he was very nervous about appearing in front of a camera. . . .
[Billy Wilder directing Swanson
and Cecil B. De Mille; courtesy
"Edith Head and I together created perfect clothes for my character--a trifle exotic, a trifle exaggerated, a trifle out of date. For my scene with Mr. De Mille, I designed a hat with a single white peacock feather, remembering the peacock feather headdress everyone was so superstitious about when Mr. De Mille and I made the scenes with the lions in 'Male and Female.' When Billy Wilder and the set designer asked me for personal props from my own life, I thought twice but I supplied them: scores of stills in old frames; the Geza Kende portrait; an idea for a large plaid bow on my head in one scene, a bit like those Mother had me wear as a child, a bit like the ones Sennett bathing beauties wore; the fact that Mr. De Mille had usually referred to me as 'young fellow.' "
Cecil B. De Mille would be hauled up
on charges of "sexism" today if he tried
to do that with any of our young stars
of today--presuming they wouldn't
giggle themselves to death at some
one calling them "young fellow!"
[Norma Desmond ready for her close-up,
courtesy of www.leffa-arviot.com.]

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Woman of the Year

"Woman of the Year" (1942) is on the Turner
Classic Movies cable channel later this afternoon
at 6:00 P.M. (EDT).
It marks the beginning of the decades-long
relationship between two incredible actors,
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
This is an excerpt from An Affair to Remember
by Christopher Anderson, William Morrow
and Company, Inc., 1997, pages 140 to 141.
"Kate met Spencer for the first time just a few days [after beginning to
negotiate with Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer about "Woman of the Year]. Unfortunately she was wearing her "trick heels" when she emerged from the side entrance to the Thalberg Building at MGM and, on the steps outside, encountered [Joseph] Mankiewicz and Tracy as they left the commissary.
"They got nearer and nearer," she recalled, "and I got more and more excited. I hope he likes me. . . ." As she got closer, Kate recalled that she was two inches taller than the five-foot-nine-inch Tracy.
"There was a long silence," she said. "I didn't know what to say." She grasped his hand and shook it, he later said, "like a stevedore."
"Sorry I've got these high heels on," Kate said, trying to break the ice. "But when we do the movie I'll be careful about what I wear."
Tracy looked at Kate with "those old lion eyes of his." Then Joe Mankiewicz spoke up. "Don't worry, Kate," Mankiewicz said. "He'll cut you down to size."
Afterward Kate rushed to Mankiewicz's office to hear what opinion the great Tracy had of her. "What did he think? What did he think?" she demanded. "He must have said something."
"Well . . ."
"What did he say?"
Mankiewicz shifted nervously in his chair. "He said, "Katharine Hepburn has dirty nails, hasn't she?"
. . .
There's hope for the rest of us if a
passionate love affair can come
from a beginning like this!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Colleen's Castle

Every man's home may be his castle but
one Hollywood actress actually built her own!
Colleen Moore made movies with the likes of
Clara Bow to Antonio Moreno from the silent
era in 1916 to the talkie, "Scarlet Letter," in 1934.
She wrote her autobiography in 1968, Silent Star:
Colleen Moore (Doubleday, New York).
These stories are from her book,
pages 231 to 245:
(From The Museum of Science and Industry
"The idea for my own fairy castle--a miniature fairy castle--came not from [William Randolph] Hearst [and his Castle] but from my father, though my doll house has the same feeling about it as San Simeon. When Hedda Hopper [actress turned gossip columnist] first saw it, she turned to me and said, 'It's plain to see you've been to the Hearst ranch.' "
They hired Horace Jackson (First National Studio
set designer) to draw up the architectural plans.
The Castle eventually stood twelve feet at the
tallest tower and was nine feet square.
They consulted with Harold Grieve as the decorator.
He named the period furniture as "Early Fairie."
One of my favorite stories was when she took a
brass chandelier that Moore wasn't happy with.
A jeweler in Beverly Hills, Mr. Crouch, took her
"handkerchief filled with [Moore's] jewels" to
replace the beads on it.
He took everything but "a six-carat
pear-shaped diamond."
(You can see-barely!-the chandelier at
The Prince's Bedroom also has an interesting story:
"I took an ermine skin to a taxidermist and asked him to turn it into a bearskin rug, head and all. He said he could make the bear's head, but not with the mouth open, because he couldn't think of anyway to duplicate the bear's teeth in miniature (this was before the age of plastic). When I went to pick up the rug, I was astonished to see the bear's mouth yawning wide and filled with white, wicked-looking teeth. The taxidermist beamed at me, 'I caught a little mouse and used his teeth.'"
Well . . . that's one way of getting
rid of the little buggers!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Maltese Falcon, Part 3

These are two images for "The Maltese Falcon" that I came acoss and couldn't resist posting for those of us who love the books that became one of our favorite movies!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Maltese Falcon, Part 2

Continuing with behind-the-scenes of making the classic "The Maltese Falcon" . . . .
~ ~ ~
"There were other elaborate practical jokes, one of which was 'Shock the Tourists.' We didn't want people around watching us. We had an odd childlike territorial imperative about our set. It was hard work, and we didn't want anyone looking over our shoulder, so to speak. Also, we had a sneaky feeling that we were doing something different and exciting, and we didn't want to show it to anyone until it was finished. Hard to explain.

"It all started one afternoon when we were lined up on a shot where I sit down ad cross my knees elaborately--I think it was in Spade's office. I looked down and said, 'Hold it a minute, I've got a [expletive] run in my stocking.' I looked up and a little to the side of the camera was the publicity man with a half-dozen gentlemen of the cloth. They were ushered out politely by the publicity man who looked a little pale. When the big doors closed, everybody whooped and hollered and said, 'That's our girl! That's the way to get 'em off the set!' After that John dreamed up an act for each of us--designated by numbers. A stream of Helen Hokinson type club women would come in cooing like pigeons with the excitement of seeing Bogart, and John would sing out, 'Number Five, kiddies, Number Five!' At which Bogie would go into the prepared act with Greenstreet. He'd start yelling at him, calling him a fat old fool, 'Who the hell do you think you are? You upstaged me, and I'm telling you I'm not having any--' and John would be pleading with him to hold his temper. Very quickly, the uncomfortable and disillusioned ladies would exit and we could go back to work.
"'Number Ten' was a bit more involved. I had to get into my portable [trailer] with Peter Lorre before a group got over to where we were working. When they had been guided into position by the gracious John Huston, saying politely, 'I think you'll see just fine right over here,' in sight of the door of my dressing room, he would then call out, 'O.K., I think we're ready for Number Ten, now." Peter would open the door and come down the steps fastening his fly, and I would stick my head out the door waving my fingers as he said, 'See you later, Mary.'
"Our long-suffering publicity man was not stupid. He finally came to John saying, 'May I have your permission, sir, to bring over some rather important guests this afternoon? Without benefit of your [expletive] gags?' And John said, 'You can try, my friend, you can try.' Soon the Falcon company became a closed set and we could get our work done without people gaping at us."
(A lobby card from www.filmsite.org.)
*From A Life on Film by Mary Astor; Delacorte Press; New York; 1967, 1969, 1971; pages 162 to 163.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Maltese Falcon, Part 1

This is taken from one of Mary Astor's autobiographies about one of America's favorite films--and one of mine.*
* * *
"BEFORE THE LIGHTS WENT OUT, THERE WAS THE MALTESE FALCON. There is very little I can say about that one, because everything has been said. But anyway, 'Shall we talk about the Black Bird?'
"So often, I have been asked 'What was it like?' to work in a picture that was so ahead of its time, such a departure in methods, point of view, etc. Of course you don't know you're making history while you're in there making it. We were, all of us excited about a good story--one that had everyone confused! However, the 'where was who when what happened' could be traced down. There wasn't a loophole in it. It helped a great deal that we shot the picture in sequence, except for some exterior night shots on the street set. But even so, John Huston often had to call time out to clear up matters. All of us had read the Dashiell Hammett book and studied the script, but it got so that when the 'now just a minute' look came on to somebody's face, it became a joke to say, 'When did Brigid shoot Thursby? On Friday!'"
* * *
". . . If you recall, a tall burly figure staggers into Spade's office late one night, clutching a heavy package wrapped in torn newspapers. He is dressed in the clothes of a seaman, with his peaked cap pulled down over his eyes. He is the captain of the ship which burned in port late that afternoon. He mutters something about 'the Falcon--the bird--' and falls dead on the floor of the office with some bullet holes in him.
"Just a bit--you never saw him before--and that's all he has to do, just stagger in and fall and drop the package. John thought it would be great fun to have his father, Walter Huston, come in one morning and do the part. And so did Walter--his son's first movie, etc. A bit of fun-sentiment.
"John took hours to film it, and Walter got very grumpy: 'Didn't expect to have to put in a day's work.'
"'Let's do it again. Sorry, Dad, you missed your mark.'
"'Take seven. Sorry, Dad. This time try it without staggering so much.'
"'Take ten, please. Sorry, Dad. We've got to reload.'
"The next day, after they'd seen the rushes [what they had already filmed]--they were fine, of course--John told me to call Walter's house and pretend to be his, John's, secretary. I called on the set phone and when Walter answered, I told him that Mr. Huston was sorry, but that we'd have to retake the sequence that afternoon--something had happened to the film in the lab--and could he be ready to shoot at one o'clock?
"I held the receiver from my ear and everybody could hear Walter yelling, 'You tell my son to get another actor or go to h*ll! He made me take twenty falls, and I'm sore all over, and I'm not about to take twenty more. Or even one!'"
[This still of Mary Astor is from www.moviebadgirls.com.]
*From A Life on Film by Mary Astor; Delacorte Press; 1967, 1969, 1971; New York; page 159 to 162.