Monday, January 30, 2006

Mary Brian

"Return Engagement: Faces to Remember - Then & Now" (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.; 1984) covers a wide range of Hollywood actresses of our Golden Era.
Horst's classic photographs from their heydays to ones he took for James Watters' 1984 book illustrate this incredible book.
Pages 122 - 123 cover Mary Brian, best known to some of us as Yvette Lamartine in "Charlie Chan in Paris."
According to Watters:
In her 70s, she's as animated as she was listening to Buddy Rogers strum a ukulele. Her North Hollywood home is on a secluded acre just a few blocks from freeway traffic. "We used to have sheep here to keep the lawn down." In the den, the walls are filled with WWII photos and plaques of Mary's work, when she entertained troops in Europe and North Africa. "We traveled with a combat unit on the front lines. We couldn't use scenery or anything because we had to be undercover." Mary takes a chair next to one of her paintings, a favorite, of her godchild, the daughter of Stuart Erwin, Jr. Stu Sr. and his wife, June Collyer, were friends and colleagues at Paramount. "If you witness three generations in Hollywood, does that make you a pioneer? I was so young when I started, I had to go to school on the lot." Then, sounding a sensible not of Wendy, she adds, "But I'm glad I've got my painting and not just my memories like so many other old-timers."
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She died of natural causes on December 30, 2002, at the age of 96.
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If you'd like "Maven's Musings" that cover "Rear Window," Grace Kelley, and so on . . . contact Maven at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com or
Miss Maven
P.O. Box 54493
Hurst, TX 76054
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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ava Gardner

Who best to play the title character in "One Touch of Venus"?
How about Ava Gardner?!
[Ava Gardner, One Touch of Venus.
Doesn't this picture make her hands look deformed?!]
Eve Arden writes in her autobiography, Three Phases of Eve(St. Vincent's Press, New York, 1985, page 67):
[Eve Arden, 1936]
Universal offered me a part in One Touch of Venus, starring Ava Gardner . . . .
When she first stepped on the set, I thought she was certainly one of the most beautiful girls I'd ever seen. Those catlike green eyes looked me over, and then she smiled. Draped all in white, with her dark curls piled on her head, she shamed the statue from which she turned to flesh. . . .
[Ava Garnder, One Touch of Venus]
Since most of my scene were with Tom Conway, I didn't see much of Ava during the picture, but felt she was very much down to earth and likeable. One evening about a month after the picture was finished, I ran into her and Howard Duff in the neighborhood drugstore near my home.
[Can you imagine ANY drop-dead gorgeous moviestar going ANYWHERE today without paparazzi all over her?!?!
Not to mention what the television tabloids would do to find out what she was in there to buy!]
After a brief chat, Ava said, "Eve, you have a swimming pool, don't you?" . . . It was a very hot night, so I promptly invited them up for a dip. I dug out one of my bathing suits, which Ava draped over her much smaller figure, and we tied it on with knots. Bikinis were unknown then.
Venus on my diving board was sensational in a suit of knots. What Howard Duff wore I happily can't remember.
[Ava Gardner (left) and Robert Walker (right),
One Touch of Venus]
Does anyone really care?!
Maven certainly doesn't, especially when she thinks of herself in a bathing suit.
Sssooooooooobbb!
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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lon Chaney in The Unknown

Bob Thomas's biography, Joan Crawford: A Biography (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1978, page 59 - 60) includes how she felt about Lon Chaney:
. . . She later declared that her best teacher was Lon Chaney [Sr.]. Offstage he was a mild, shy man but on the set his concentration on his menacing role was so all-absorbing that his fellow actors were terrified. As an armless circus performer in The Unknown (1927), he was required to light cigarettes and use knives and forks with his feet, even throw daggers at his beautiful assistant, played by Joan. She marveled at how Chaney spent hours alone in his dressing room perfecting the role, and how he never allowed his own persona to enter his screen character.
Maven marvels at La Belle Crawford . . . did she really learn how to act from Chaney?!
Maybe she should have learned how to throw knives and hide the bodies to make her point more effective about the better roles that had gone to Norma Shearer instead!
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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Drew Barrymore's Forebears!

Drew Barrymore shouldn't surprise anyone who knows about her famous forebears!
John Barrymore was "some punkins" himself, even as a child according to John Kobler in his biography of Mr. Barrymore: Damned in Paradise: The Life of John Barrymore (Antheneum, New York, 1977, page 41).
John exhibited at an early age a waywardness not surprising in a son of Maurice Barrymore. On October 16, 1895, in his thirteenth year, Maurice delivered him to the preparatory-school division of Georgetown University, a Jesuit institution in Washington, D.C. The priest who greeted them, Father Richard, showed them through the various buildings. As they entered the gymnasium, John asked permission to test his skill on some horizontal bars. The priest readily granted it and John executed a neat handstand, forgetting what his pockets contained. Out tumbled a pair of brass knuckles, a pack of cigarettes and a half-pint flask of whiskey. Maurice was not greatly perturbed by this evidence of precocious turpitude, and the Jesuit fathers, while troubled, decided to admit the boy in the hope of reforming him. They failed.
One night, returning to his dormitory from a clandestine visit to Harvey's Old Oyster House, flushed with liquor, John proceeded to entertain his schoolmates with imitations of drunken actors. A preceptor interrupted the performance. "I suppose you know you're going fast to perdition," he said.
"No," John retorted, "but I'm sure I'm going back to New York."
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Maven is afraid that Washington, D.C., and the Jesuits never did understand the Barrymores!
Can't you imagine how different things would be if they had?!?!
Whoa!
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Friday, January 20, 2006

John Carradine as Dracula

John Carradine wrote about being Dracula in his introduction to House of Dracula (The Original Shooting Script) [edited by Philip Riley; MagicImage Filmbooks, Volume 16; 1993; pages 11 - 12):
. . . To date, I have the distinction of being the only actor who looked the part as visualized by Bram Stoker in 1897. Dracula was a Magyar. When he first appears to Jonathan Harker he is an old man with long white hair and a moustache. It would have been impossible to speak lines with a mouth full of sharp teeth, so I settled on the long hair and white moustache. The studio [Universal] refused to allow me to keep the long hair, but the moustache remained. For some reason they needed to make the character in the mold of the Wolf Man for the second film [House of Frankenstein, 1944 and House of Dracula, 1945]. I played the character as evil as possible for I learned long ago that if I wanted to continue to eat, villains find steadier work than artists. the The public will remember a villain. The story writer[Curt Siodmak] of the first film at least had talent and credibility. He knew what he was writing about for he came from the are where the legends were told around gypsy campfires. However the scriptwriter knew as much about the characters as his paycheck would allow! They ended up making Dracula a type of dope fiend. Instead of existing as the traditional vampire, he now was seeking out the help of a doctor to cure him of his vampirism by the use of modern medical means. But instead the doctor's blood gets contaminated by the vampire and he becomes evil.
[John Carradine, Martha O'Driscoll and Lon Chaney, Jr., with his sons on the set of House of Dracula]
Maven begs to differ. . . .
All some men need to do is get alone with a woman and they go for her . . . neck area!
That's Maven's story and she's sticking to it!
Email any comments, questions or suggestions for Maven to theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com, especially if you have a question about an old movie or three!
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Arsenic and Old Lace

"Arsenic and Old Lace" (1944) is as close to being perfect as Hollywood can get.
For starters, you can't get any better as to actors, starting with Cary Grant at his most elegant and funniest as Mortimer Brewster.
(Maven thinks naming Grant "Mortimer" alone is a hoot!)
There's horror here, too, with Josephine Hull as his Aunt Abby.
Her brother was none other than Henry Hull, "Werewolf of London."
(And she certainly has the pedigree!)
You have Raymond Massey stepping in for Boris Karloff, who originated the part of Jonathan Brewster on Broadway and couldn't be borrowed for the film.
Peter Lorre is Dr. Einstein and perfect as Raymond Massey's sidekick/plastic surgeon and can't operate unless he's drunk . . .
(Maybe the anesthetic gave him the morning-after heebie-jeebies.)
Priscilla Lane is Elaine Harper, the Minister's daughter who lives across the cemetery from Mortimer's two aunts, who can't figure out if she's married to Mortimer or murder material for Jonathan.
(Across the cemetery?
At least you don't have to worry about the kids trick-or-treating from next door!)
John Alexander is "Teddy Roosevelt."
Not the President, just the one officially looneytoons resident of the house who almost looks normal compared to the rest of the family, starting with the Aunts.
"They're two of the dearest, sweetest, kindest old ladies that ever walked the earth. They're out of this world. They're like pressed rose leaves," Police Sgt. Brophy (Edward McNamara).
Consider:
MORTIMER: Men don't just get into window seats and die!
ABBY: OF course not, dear. He died first.
MORTIMER: But how?
ABBY: The gentleman died because he drank some wine with poisoning it. Now, I don't know why you're making such a big deal over this, Mortimer. Don't you worry about a thing!
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MORTIMER: Well, how did the poison get in the wine?
MARTHA: Well, we put it in wine because it's less noticeable. When it's in tea it has a distinct order.
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MORTIMER: All I did was cross the bridge and I was in Brooklyn. Amazing.
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Boy, is Maven glad she lives in Texas!
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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

"To Be or Not to Be"
That's not a question this time but a movie with Jack Benny as the head of a Polish theatrical troupe that includes his wife who's played by the beautiful Carole Lombard.
Need Maven say that this is a comedy?
Need Maven say that you probably figured that out as soon as you saw Jack Benny's name?!
Our fearless band of actors tangle with Hitler's Gestapo over the names of the Polish Resistance Movement.
Okay.
So basically it isn't a funny subject from a time when so much of the world was being plunged into a war of horror by so few who were still in power when this movie was made in 1942.
Hollywood did its part in the propaganda war by helping shape public opinion, support and morale on the side of our military and allies.
Which is where the likes of Jack Benny comes in.
Benny may not have the reputation that Bob Hope did for entertaining our troops but he did help the home fires bright.
"To Be or Not to Be" doesn't have any of the regulars from his radio show like his wife, Mary Livingston, or band leader, Phil Harris.
[L. to r.: Charles Halton, Tom Dugan,(?), Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack, and John Ridges)
What it does have is a young (and very good-looking) Robert Stack as Lieutenant Sobinski, plus veterans such as Sig Ruman (Colonel Ehrhardt), Maude Eburne (Anna), Lionel Atwill (Rawitch), and Halliwell Hobbes (General Armstrong.
What you end up with is a very funny movie well-worth taking home, preferably for good!
Where else would you find Felix Bressart as Greenberg telling Lionel Atwill, "Mr. Rawitch, what you are I wouldn't eat."
Rawitch: "How dare you call me a ham!"
And Carole Lombard as Maria Tura:
It's becoming ridiculous the way you grab attention. If I tell a joke, you finish it. If I go on a diet, you lose the weight. If I have a cold, you cough. And if we should have a baby, I'm not so sure I'd be the mother.
Jack Benny as her husband, Josef Tura:
I'm statisfied to be the father.
[Jack Benny in disguise with Carole Lombard]
(Another Benny line:)
You can't have your cake and shoot it.
Sig Ruman (Col. Ehrhardt) gets a good take on the Fuhrer:
They named a brandy after Napoleon, they made a herring out of Bismarck, and the Fuhrer is going to end up as a piece of cheese!
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Maven definitely rates it as a musthave video!
And any titles or stories that you have comments, questions or suggestions about . . . please email her at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com.
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Monday, January 16, 2006

London After Midnight

When is a vampire movie not a vampire movie?
Ask Denis Gifford in (A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, New York, !973) pages 68 - 71:
British sensitivity changed the title of the new Chaney and Browning venture: London After Midnight (1927) became The Hypnotist in England. It was the first true American vampire movie despite the twist in its tail. Authentic vampire trappings abounded: twin punctures in the jugular, an hickory stick staked through the heart, pallid and dark-eyed lovelies at the window. Before the Browning version, Hollywood vampires had been pallid and dark-eyed lovelies of the Theda Bara breed: sucking their men dry but not of blood. Chaney had his expected unmasking scene, but in reverse. . . . [t]he hideous vampire . . . revealed as upright Inspector Burke of Scotland Yard, hornrims and all! Outside the requisites of plot payoff, the make-up took a little longer: sharpened dentures made it painful for Chaney to speak, and wire hoops in his eye-sockets were tightened before takes to bulge his eyes. The denouement was not, it appears, a copout. Claimed Browning:
"Mystery stories are tricky, for if they are too gruesome or horrible, if they exceed the average imagination by too much, the audience will laugh. London After Midnight is an example of how to get people to accept ghosts and other supernatural spirits by letting them turn out to be the machinations of a detective. Thereby the audience is not asked to believe the horrible impossible, but the horrible possible, and plausibility increased, rather than lessened, the thrills and chills."
Somebody forgot to tell James Whale when he made Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, and The Invisible Man!
Not to mention Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King that!
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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Veronica Lake

One picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Not necessarily!
Edith Head wrote about the difficulty of fitting Veronica Lake in her autobiography, Edith Head's Hollywood, (also by Paddy Calistro; E.P. Dutton, Inc.; New York; 1983) pages 53 - 4:
Her figure problems seemed insurmountable. She was short, like me, and very tiny--possibly the smallest normal adult i had ever seen. Her waist was the smallest in Hollywood, 20 3/4". That was 5 1/2" smaller than the average waist. Far from a designer's dream like Dietrich or Lombard. Yet everyone was telling me to make her into a sex symbol. She had a good bust, but I couldn't show it because of the Hays Office's anticleavage rules. I was forced to be extremely careful in every costume she wore. The fabrics I used in Veronica's clthes alays had some type of vertical interest; horizontal lies would shorten her. I devised meclines that called attention to her bust without actually exposing it. I always played up the fact that she had big breasts, which made her seem like a larger woman.
In her first film, Gulliver's Travels (1941), I dressed her in told lame and beaded gowns. She was sultry and an immediate hit. Veronica was married and was, unfortunately for me, very pregnant at the time we were making that film. The important question was: How do you photograph a girl so she does not appear pregnant? She can stand behind a piano. She can carry a large muff and you can assume it's a winter picture. Or, what was most successful for Veronica, she can carry a huge fan. Gulliver's Travels was full of these devices, but looking back there are still times when she looks lika a pudgy, short girl-- you can't do a whole movie behind a muff, fan, or piano. But by the end of the film I was an expert at concealing pregnancy. She became a sex symbol, so I must have done something right.
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Maven just wishes Edith Head could design clothes that takes off pounds for Maven!
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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Lugosi!

"The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield."
These words have haunted us ever since the first time that we heard Bela Lugosi say them.
Why?
Denis Gifford tries to explain it in A Pictorial History of Horror Movies (The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, New York, 1973) page 82:
[What woman wouldn't want her neck bitten
by the Bela Lugosi in this picture?!]
[That the 1931 Dracula is a] moody piece [is] due less to [Tod] Browning than his gifted cameraman, the fabulous Karl Freund. Yet antique as Dracula undoubtedly is, it can still hold an audience in thrall. That it is the oldest talkie still playing commercially is due entirely to the hypnotic performance of its star.
"An evil expression in the eyes, a sinister arch to the brow or a leer on my lips - all of which take long practice in muscular control - are sufficient to hypnotize an audience into seeing what I want them to see, and what I myself see in the mind's eye."
Lugosi's hypnosis was helped out by Browning aiming twin pencil-spots into his eyeballs. That one consistently missed its mark worried neither audience nor Warner Brothers, who quickly picked up the effect for John Barrymore's Svengali (1931). . . .
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Maven personally wishes that Gifford had put it differently.
"Aiming twin pencil-spots into his eyeballs" sounds awfully painful!
Maybe that's why the Bela Lugosi Website has been under construction for several years!!
[www.lugosi.com]
Remember a movie, but not the name?
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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bela Lugosi in a New Light

Miss Maven came across an item about Bela Lugosi while researching today's post.
Maven had never seen this, in spite of checking out about old horror movies and actors for almost longer than Maven can count not to mention old radio shows almost as long!
Just in case you haven't seen it either . . . enjoy!
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Mystery House
194?
Bela Lugosi was to be the star of Mystery House, with Ken Carpenter as the host.
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Mystery House was a terrific radio series starring Bela Lugosi. There was only one problem: It never aired. Fortunately, it survives on record and tape for collectors to enjoy. The following excerpt is from an exhaustive book on Bela's career entitled LUGOSI by Gary Don Rhodes.
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"Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Lugosi's radio career is this -- an attempt at his own program [Mystery House]. It hoped to feature Lugosi in the leading role of various 'Grand Guignol' tales. Ken Carpenter, a well-known radio personality at the time, gave introductory and closing remarks. Among the planned episodes was a story about a woman who had been buried alive, with producers hoping for Simone Simon as a guest. 'The Thirsty Death', a 'pilot' episode, survives and features John Carradine and Lureen Tuttle as guests. Lugosi played a jealous husband who injects his wife or Carradine -- her presumed lover -- with a poison, only to find out too late that the two were innocent infidelity. This particular recording is seemingly the only one actually produced and recorded. The Mystery House press would have sponsored it, so why the show never reached the air remains a question. The stories in Mystery House were to be from 'the greatest mystery theater the world has ever known, the Grand Guignol of Paris.' The only recorded show claims Lugosi was to star in a series of films for Universal Studios. If produced, they would have echoed the Inner Sanctum series of films Universal made with Lon Chaney, Jr. Some 14 episodes of Mystery House exist without Lugosi, surviving artifacts from another of the program's incarnations."
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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Old Dark House

William K. Everson gave a great comparison between the movie of The Old Dark House (1932) and the novel (Benighted) it was based on in Classics of the Horror Film (Citadel Press, New York, 1974, page 81):
Priestley's original novel was rather uneven; he was generally much more at home with his "social," semi-political books and plays--or with his simple, regional comedies of manners, like When We Are Married, which dealt with the people and class-distinctions of Yorkshire that he knew wo well. Elements of both schools of writing seem to be forced into Benighted, and get in the way of the melodrama too often. The one major difference between novel and film was that Priestley killed off his hero, Penderell, whereas indications in the film that this might have been a last minute decision. The well-knit scenario is carefully balanced, pitting the five inhabitants of the house against the five guests. In a very rough kind o way, each has an opposing counterpart, and the night of terror brings out the best (or worst) in all of them, solving all their problems, just as dawn automatically banishes the insoluble fears and dangers of a nightmare. (Somehow, it is a little difficult to consider oneself free of problems with Karloff's semi-mad butler still lumbering around!)
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STILL?!?!
Miss Maven's beloved mother watched this movie just once because Boris Karloff was in it and that was it.
Never again!
This is one of those movies that Miss Maven strongly recommends parents watch before letting their children of about twelve or under watch it.
Come to think of it . . . .
Some days Maven isn't up to it!
Please excuse her while she looks for her bourbon--
er, smelling salts!
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Sunday, January 08, 2006

I Married an Angel

Calvin Thomas Beck wrote about "I Married a Witch" in Scream Queens: Heroines of the Horrors (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.; New York, 1978).
On the relationship of the two stars, Frederic March and Veronica Lake:
During filming, March was subjected to Lake's practical jokes. In the scene in which he carries her off, a cameraman helped her rig a forty-pound weight under her dress. The scene was shot three times, with the unsuspecting March breathing heavily and gradually losing his strength. After the last take, the diminutive Lake looked at him, said "Big bones," and walked away. When March learned the truth a few days letter, it irritated him to such an extent that he never spoke to her thereafter. According to Lake, the reason for the jokes was that "he treated me like dirt under his talented feet."
Another I Married a Witch incident with March is described in her autobiography, Veronica: "The shot was medium, showing only the two of us from waist-high. We were into the scene, and he came close to me. He was standing direct in front of the chair. I carefully brought my foot up between his legs. And I moved my foot up and down, each upward movement pushing it ever so lightly into his groin. Pro that he is, he never showed his predicament during the scene. But it wasn't easy for him, and I delighted in knowing what was going through his mind. Naturally, when the scene was over, he laced into me. I just smiled."
Way to go!
The way Frederic March comes across in many of his films, Miss Maven thinks Mr. March deserved even worse, even if only shake him up a little to loosen him up!!!
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Friday, January 06, 2006

The Devil Made Me Do It

"The Devil Made Me Do It!"
Flip Wilson had dressed up as "Geraldine" to make this a rallying cry for a generation when Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick were doing their series, The Snoop Sisters.
(Helen Hayes)
It became the name of a delicious episode of their series that aired on March 5, 1974.
Helen Hayes was Ernesta Snoop and coming home from a vacation and being greeted by her sister, Mildred Natwick (Gwendolyn Snoop Nickolson) and they are immediately face with the dead body of Hayes' seat-mate on the plane.
(Mildred Natwick)
Bert Convy (Lt. Steve Ostrowski) and Lou Antonio (Barney) were on hand, as usual to get if not keep the ladies out of trouble.
Dear nephew Convey was a policemen who frequently ended up deep into cases because of his aunties . . . but just as often they were the ones who helped solve his cases!
Barney was their chauffeur, handyman and chaperone when Convy tried to get the nosy ladies off his cases.
"The Devil Made Me Do It" is a perfect case.
(Cyril Ritchard)
The Snoop Sisters couldn't let well enough dead when the body showed up on the luggage carousel at the airport.
Maven wouldn't have had any problem.
Some of us pack light!
So Ernesta and "G" start investigating and end up with a medallion that leads them to witches and warlocks like Cyril Ritchard and rock and roller Alice Cooper.
(Alice Cooper)
Where else are going to find those two together, with Greg Morris (of TV's "Mission Impossible" fame)?!
Miss Maven rates this a definite musthave.
Miss Maven was lucky enough to being able to get it at www.torysmysterymovies.com.
(Mention Maven and her blog in your email and get a discount on your order!)
You can email any comments, questions or suggestions to Miss Maven, herself, at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Judy Garland

Judy Garland never did get over the fact that all people wanted from her was her voice.
Aljean Harmetz makes a case for that in her book,
"The Making of 'The Wizard of Oz,'" A Delta Book, 1977, page 108 - 9:
During her vaudeville childhood, Judy Garland had come to perceive herself as the undesired repository of her voice. The years at MGM would only intensify that feeling. "Mr. Mayer used to love to show his stars off,: Says his ex-secretary, Sue Taruog. "When Joan Crawford came to have lunch with him once without dressing up, he sent her home. He wanted to walk on the lot with one of his stars and have everybody say,'Isn't she gorgeous?'" MGM did indeed want Judy Garland solely for her voice. Even a glance at the other young girls who came to the studio as contract players made that obvious. Ann Rutherford. Lana Turner. Hedy Lamarr. Gloria de Haven. June Allyson. Deanna Durbin. Durbin was lost to the studio by accident in 1936 after being paired with Garland in a short film, Every Sunday, that was really a contest. Which girl should the studio keep? Which would give evidence of that magical rapport with an audience? Deanna Durbin's lean, long-legged prettiness convinced many of the executives who judged the film, although Judy's voice tilted the balance back to dead center. T the end of her life. Judy Garland would remember those early years when the wardrobe women circled her, discussing her flaws between themselves but never once speaking directly to her. "She got her revenge," says costumer designer Mary Ann Nyberg. "when I was designing for Arthur Freed, she showed me how she could stand a certain way for a fitting, and when the dress was made and brought back, the waistline would be one inch too short. She could also distend her throat and make the neckline stand out." During those first seven years, Judy Garland's sense of physical unattractiveness--and , by extension, sexual unattractiveness--became an obsession.
Miss Maven wishes that Judy could have "sic-ed" Toto on those too-too nasty people. . . .
And Maven isn't talking about a little nip on their ankles either!
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If you love old movies but don't know which ones to get . . . or want to know more about the ones you have now . . . try Maven's Reviews!
You'll get the stories and backgrounds on movies from the twenties to the sixties, including Charlie Chans and other series.
You'll get vintage posts from this blog and The Annex at http://charliechanannex.blogspot.com.
Just email Miss Maven at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com for an list and to make any suggestions for future movies!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Nancy Drew

The Nancy Drew books have always been so popular from the first books in 1930 that you'd think that movies would have been a sure thing.
Television has certainly made periodic tries starting in the 1970's with Pamela Sue Martin.
But movies?
Warner Brothers did try in 1938.
Really.
But they made a few boo-boos.
For starters, there was Ned Nickerson.
Except there wasn't Ned Nickerson because they changed his name to Ted for some unexplainable reason.
Miss Maven thinks that maybe Warner's thought "Ned Nickerson" sounded like a sissy.
Come to think of it, he does end up in a dress or three!
All in the name of a good cause, of course!
And what happened to Hannah Gruen, the Drews' housekeeper?
She became Effie in Nancy Drew, Detective in 1938.
Excuse Miss Maven while she stops laughing. . . .
Effie was Hannah's niece in the original versions of Nancy Drew and about as much help as Zasu Pitts.
(And anybody who doesn't know who Zasu Pitts was is at the wrong blog!)
Nancy was changed from a self-assured, socially confident and independent teenager to a pain in the . . . (pick your favorite body part).
Ms. Drew did whatever she could think of, including bullying, to get "Ted" (Frankie Thomas, Jr.) to do her bidding, even when it might (and did) mean losing his job.
What makes her "know-it-all" attitude is seeing her relationship with her father.
In Nancy Drew, Reporter, we are treated to a cutesy scene of Drew putting his daughter to be like she's either five-years-old or an idiot.
Miss Maven isn't sue which group should be more insulted.
Should you watch them?
Yes, as long as you know what you're getting into!
The basic stories are good, two being from the actual original books.
Nancy Drew, Detective is from The Mystery at Larkspur Lane and stays fairly faithful to the book.
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939) was based on The Hidden Staircase and was the last movie for decades.
No wonder.
The original story had Nancy sleuthing pretty much by herself and Ned wouldn't make his appearance for several more books.
There wasn't any chauffeur dying on the job (suicide, murder or alien-kidnapping) OR a race track syndicate!
Bottom line:
Watch them if you've never read the original books.
If you have . . . .
Miss Maven recommends watching them as parodies, if necessary, but do watch them!
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If you have any comments, questions or suggestions or would like a list of her new Maven's Reviews, you can reach Miss Maven at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Major and the Minor

Ginger Rogers wrote about her dual role in "The Major and the Minor" in her autobiography, "Ginger: My Story" (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1991, page 243):
(Ginger Rogers after she's turned
herself into a twelve-year-old.)
Billy Wilder was a wonderful traffic cop for this film and couldn't have been more enchanting. From the very beginning, he had the nicest attitude toward me and all the other actors. The "Major" in this story was played by Ray Milland, Rita Johnson playedis snobbish fiancee, and Diana Lynn was her little sister, the only character in the story who recognized that I was putting on an act. We had many fresh-faced young talents playing the cadets who were constantly after "Susu," among them Raymond Roe and Frankie Thomas, Jr. The Main source of our off-camera laughter was the very talented Robert Benchley. Of of his lines tome, written by Charles Brackett--"Why don't you slip out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?"--became a standard. Benchley's on-stage humor was the antithesis of the backstage Benchley I came to know. His innocent type of humor was very different from his own nature, for he was far more serious and complex. He would arrive at the studio in the morning punctually, carrying with him a stack of books, and would read, on average, four books a day. I was amazed at his literary accomplishments.
(Rogers with her first husband, Lew
Ayres, and mother, Lela Rogers.)
Miss Maven is always amazed at how Ginger Rogers could pull off the scene at the beginning of the movie where she disguises herself as a twelve-year-old to get the child's discount to ride the train.
Miss Maven hasn't been able to do that since she was . . . sob! . . . ten!
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You can reach Miss Maven at

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A New Maven Service

Miss Maven is pleased to announce
a new service to her readers!
She is making available new reviews
for sale plus vintage posts
from her blogs.
(Meaning these will be straight
text . . . . No photographs.)
You may reach Miss Maven by
clicking on the envelope that
you will find at the bottom
of each post on this blog.
You may also reach her
directly at her email address:
Please let her know if you wish
her order form or if you have
any questions or suggestions.
In the meantime . . .
Happy New Year
from
Miss Maven and staff!