Monday, April 22, 2013

wrapped in songs and gypsy shawls


I have a very cyclical pattern when it comes to how I dress: I tend toward dark, androgynous clothes in the winter and brightly colored bohemian threads in the warmer months. I don't know what causes the switch, I guess it has to do with the weather -- but it's sunny outside and all I want to do is dance around barefoot with flowers in my hair. Currently I am drawing my inspiration from the likes of Lisa Bonet, a Penny Lane-era Kate Hudson, Anita Pallenberg, a 1967 Pattie Boyd and the witchy goddess Stevie Nicks. 

Title: from "Ladies of the Canyon" (Joni Mitchell)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hot Dudes Doing Cute Things: Cary Grant, Noted Face Sniffer

Okay, so first of all we can all agree that Cary Grant was a superior specimen of a man. While the guys I know play video games all day long and are seemingly incapable of wearing actual pants (men of the world, I ask you: what's up with those hybrid shorts-pants you wear? They're like capris but not. What are those even called? Manpris? I don't even know), old Archie Leach was doing acrobatic tricks in three-piece suits (see: Holiday). He was smoldering, sophisticated and somehow still really funny. He's an obvious choice for a hot dude doing a cute thing.

This works for me on multiple levels. 

BUT what I am profiling here isn't really so much a cute thing as a weird thing that Cary did from time to time. For some reason, he was most often photographed for publicity stills with his lovely leading ladies with his face weirdly mashed up against theirs. Don't get me wrong, I understand the intent. It's trying to be as romantic as possible (under that darn Hays Code), so they nuzzle and whatnot like they're about to kiss. That's fine for one or two pictures, but Cary was photographed doing it all the damn time. This is because -- and this is a baseless rumor that I wholeheartedly encourage you all to spread -- Cary had a propensity for sniffing faces. Simply couldn't help himself. It's the only explanation for why he did it with each one of his onscreen paramours. Think about it -- if dogs sniff rear-ends to get acquainted, why can't movie stars sniff faces?

With Irene Dunne, his costar in The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife and Penny Serenade. I don't really have that much to say because while I accept that Dunne is objectively a good actress, she's never really floated my boat. That is to say, I personally wouldn't have smelled her face. 

Ingrid Bergman costarred with Cary in two films: Indiscreet and possibly the best movie ever made, Notorious. The latter film is about spies and Nazis, so obviously lots of face nuzzling abounds. The famous kiss they share in the film -- called by one YouTube user, "the most erotic kiss in movie history" -- is full of Cary-face-sniffing action. 

Cary with his third wife, Betsy Drake, who obviously dug the face-sniffing enough to be married for almost a decade. I have a random hobby where I imagine I am a producer for weird films of my own devising, and I have already cast a biopic where George Clooney plays Cary and Kristen Wiig is Betsy and all they do is make movies together and sit around and drop acid and smell each other's face, because obviously they did that in real life

Myrna Loy was too caught up with inexplicably dressing up like Amelia Earhart to notice Cary getting his face-sniffing jollies. 

Katharine Hepburn starred with Cary in several of the most delightful films in cinematic existence: Sylvia Scarlett, Bringing Up Baby, Holiday and my actual all-time favorite The Philadelphia Story (it says something when two of my favorite films star Cary Grant). Across those four films, there was plenty of face smelling for Cary to indulge in. 

Audrey Hepburn, on the other hand, was not feeling the facial nuzzles on the set of Charade

The promotional shots for To Catch a Thief are a goldmine for proof of Cary as a face sniffer. Every picture I came across was of Cary's faced mashed up against Grace Kelly's in some variation. Perfection. 

What do you think of Cary and his face-sniffing addiction? Tragic for a cinema star or heroic that he called attention to it on numerous occasions? I only feel bad for costars like Rita Hayworth and Deborah Kerr, who, for all I can tell, were never deemed worthy enough to get in on the action. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

there's simply not a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering than here in camelot


As I mentioned before, during the past few weeks my mind has been completely flooded with film musicals -- the most recent one to occupy my thoughts is the 1967 Hollywood version of Camelot, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Harris and Franco Nero. Originally a wildly successful Broadway production featuring Richard Burton as King Arthur, Julie Andrews as Queen Guinevere and Robert Goulet as Sir Lancelot (and thanks to Will Ferrell, it is impossible for me to imagine Goulet in the sex symbol role), the most famous love triangle in English history was adapted into a film version in 1967 to considerably less fanfare. The most criticism came from the singing voices of the film's stars (Harris and Redgrave had vocal ranges that were more limited than their stage counterparts, while Nero's vocals were dubbed for his numbers) that some said ruined the film. According to sources, the reason for not casting the stars of the Broadway version -- who were MEGASTARS on stage and screen -- was because the producers wished to make the film sexier. This issue was aimed at Andrews in particular. Though Andrews hadn't hit it big yet with Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music when she starred in Camelot during the early '60s, she was a stage superstar from her work on My Fair Lady and was the ultimate It-girl by the time of the film adaptation, but she had a very wholesome image. Never in a million years could you imagine Andrews writhing around naked wrapped in sheets while telling her husband breathily that he was the ultimate ruler, as Redgrave does in the film.
The film received very mixed reviews, but nevertheless it's one of my favorites. Why? Because you get to witness the early relationship of Franco Nero and Vaness Redgrave (aka THE BEST COUPLE EVER). Nero and Redgrave famously had a brief but passionate relationship after meeting on the set of Camelot, which resulted in a son born in 1969. In a real-life version of Letters to Juliet (a 2010 film that Redgrave and Nero starred in), the couple re-connected many years later, with Nero even walking Redgrave's daughter Natasha Richardson down the aisle when she married Liam Neeson in 1994. The couple were finally wed in 2006, almost forty years after they first met. Isn't that just the most swoon-worthy story ever? Watching them together as a couple onscreen in Camelot always makes me feel like I have the most delightful secret -- I want to whisper to them through the film and tell them that they end up together. I can't do that (obviously) but it's great fun to watch a young couple who will soon become one of the great love stories of our time. 

Title: from "Camelot"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

i could have danced all night


It's a musical-heavy week for me as a film seminar course that I'm taking is hosting a symposium on Hollywood film musicals this weekend. Lots of work, lots of fun (I'm quite the nerd, I know -- academia excites me!) In addition to the symposium, I have a presentation on My Fair Lady, the 1964 mega-hit starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Most of the discussion is about the practice of vocal dubbing brought to light in the film (Audrey Hepburn, despite having sung vocals in previous films like Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany's, was famously dubbed in parts by Marni Nixon, the "ghostest with the mostest" who had provided vocals for Deborah Kerr in The King and I and Natalie Wood in West Side Story) and it's been very interesting reading about the politics of the practice and the general goings-on behind the scenes for this film. Rex Harrison originated the Higgins role on Broadway with Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle, but this was pre-Mary Poppins, so Andrews was passed over for the role. Harrison did his signature talk-singing through the film to accommodate his vocal range, but I find it so interesting that this is overlooked in favor of the 'scandal' regarding Audrey's vocals. It was rather horrid -- studio execs intentionally misled Audrey into thinking she would be doing her own vocals, even having her record everything, with the intention of Nixon re-dubbing everything. The final result is a mix of Marni and Audrey, and while I'm still very torn about the dubbing, I am the first to admit that the final product is a delightful film.
The fashion is obviously incredibly fabulous (the race horse scene is the ultimate example of the wild looks in this film) -- but it's one of the few instances where Audrey's costumes on film were not made by Givenchy. For My Fair Lady, fashion photographer and designer Cecil Beaton was hired to do the designs. The white beaded dress that Eliza wears to the royal ball is so gorgeous and I maintain that only Audrey could pull off wearing it with pounds of diamonds and a giant pineapple updo. I'm a musical lover, so of course I adore the songs -- "I Could Have Danced All Night" in particular.
Hopefully, over the next few days, I can include more musicals that I am inspired by during the course of the symposium -- I know that The Sound of Music is on the agenda, and I believe discussions about Ann Miller, Julie Andrews and the 1967 version of Camelot will also be covered, which I am particularly intrigued by!