Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Jean Harlow

Before the days of Madonna and Marilyn Monroe, the "Original Blonde Bombshell" made her mark on Hollywood and the world, leaving behind a new image of the Hollywood sex goddess.
Harlean Carpenter, later known as Jean Harlow, was born on March 3, 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Although she would sadly only live to age 26, Jean achieved a great deal of success during her lifetime.
In an acting career that lasted 10 short years, Jean made 36 movies. Some of her other achievements included being voted No. 22 on the American Film Institute's list of the "Greatest American Screen Legends" (female), and becoming the first movie actress to appear on the cover of Life magazine.

Jean displayed talent in both her sensual and comedic performances, but she initially captivated fans with her trendsetting platinum blonde hair.
As she gained fame, peroxide sales in the United States skyrocketed. Botched attempts to look like Jean forced thousands of women to cut their hair.
Hollywood producers of the past had consistently cast dark-haired women to play the parts of vixens, but Jean emerged as the first star to incorporate the platinum blonde look into her acting.

Jean was born the daughter of a successful dentist and his wife. Jean's mother, known as Mother Jean, had dreams of becoming an actress, which led her to divorce her husband and move to Hollywood with her young daughter.
Jean's mother never allowed her to see her father, however Jean would sneak visits with him throughout her life.
Mother Jean soon remarried a man named Marino Bello and the family moved to Chicago, where Jean attended high school.

Poor health afflicted Jean throughout her childhood. At age five, she contracted meningitis and suffered from scarlet fever at age 15.
Jean left home at age 16 to marry 23-year-old Charles McGrew. Shortly after the wedding the couple left Chicago and moved to Beverly Hills.
Jean's true aspiration in life was to be a wife and mother, however she sought work as an extra in films to please Mother Jean.
Although at first Jean was not interested in making films, she received her first role in Why is a Plumber? in 1927. She and McGrew divorced after two years, but her big career break was about to occur.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz (1939) is everybody's cherished favorite, perennial fantasy film musical from MGM during its golden years.
For many seasons, it was featured regularly on network TV as a prime time event (its first two showings were on CBS television on November 3, 1956 and in December, 1959) and then annually for Thanksgiving, Christmas and/or Easter time.
It soon became a classic institution, and a rite of passage for everyone, and probably has been seen by more people than any other motion picture over multiple decades. Initially, however, the film was not commercially successful (at $3 million), but it was critically acclaimed.

All of its images (the Yellow Brick Road, the Kansas twister), characters (e.g., Auntie Em, Toto, Dorothy, the Wicked Witch), dialogue (e.g., "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!", "We're not in Kansas anymore," "Follow the Yellow Brick Road," or the film's final line:
"There's no place like home"), and music ("Over the Rainbow") have become indelibly remembered, and the classic film has been honored with dozens of books, TV shows (such as HBO's dramatic prison series Oz), references in other films, and even by pop groups (singer Elton John with his Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road album, or Pink Floyd's 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon).

The film's plot is easily condensed: lonely and sad Kansas farmgirl Dorothy dreams of a better place, without torment against her dog Toto from a hateful neighbor spinster, so she plans to run away.
During a fierce tornado, she is struck on the head and transported to a land 'beyond the rainbow' where she meets magical characters from her Kansas life transformed within her unconscious dream state.
After travels down a Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz, and the defeat of the Wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy and her friends are rewarded by the Wizard of Oz with their hearts' desires - and Dorothy is enabled to return home to Kansas.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Monday, 7 December 2009

Bing Crosby-Silent Night

Bing Crosby-Oh Holy Night

Sunday, 6 December 2009

A Merry Little Christmas-Frank Sinatra

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Burt Lancaster

Burt Lancaster was one of five children born to a New York City postal worker.
He was a tough street kid who took an early interest in gymnastics.
He joined the circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured.
It was in the Army during WW II that he was introduced to the USO and acting.
His first film was The Killers (1946), and that made him a star.
He was a self-taught actor who learned the business as he went along.
He set up his own production company in 1948 with Harold Hecht and James Hill to direct his career.
He played many different roles in pictures as varied as The Crimson Pirate (1952), From Here to Eternity (1953), Elmer Gantry (1960) and Atlantic City (1980).

His production company, Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, produced the such films as Paddy Chayefsky's Marty (1955) (Oscar winner 1955) and The Catered Affair (1956).
In the 1980s he appeared as a supporting player in a number of movies, such as Local Hero (1983) and Field of Dreams (1989).
However, it will be the sound of his voice, the way that he laughed, and the larger-than-life characters he played that will always be remembered.

According to Kate Buford in her biography "Burt Lancaster: An American Life," he felt competitive with Marlon Brando, who achieved stardom playing Stanley Kowalski on Broadway, a role Lancaster turned down.
A Top 10 box-office success in the early 1960s,
it was this sense of competition with Brando, who was known as both an actor's actor and a major movie star, that led Lancaster to plunge into art films and riskier fare such as Luchino Visconti's Il gattopardo (1963),
in order to prove himself as an actor and be known as an artist rather than just a movie star.
After this refocusing of his career, he slipped out of the Top 10 and never again was a major box office attraction.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Marilyn Monroe

Her mother was a film-cutter at RKO Studios who, widowed and insane, abandoned her to sequence of foster homes.
She was almost smothered to death at two, nearly raped at six. At nine the LA Orphans' Home paid her a nickel a month for kitchen work while taking back a penny every Sunday for church.
At sixteen she worked in an aircraft plant and married a man she called Daddy; he went into the military, she modeled, they divorced in 1946.
She owned 200 books (including Tolstoy, Whitman, Milton), listened to Beethoven records, studied acting at the Actors' lab in Hollywood, and took literature courses at UCLA downtown.
20th Century Fox gave her a contract but let it lapse a year later. In 1948, Columbia gave her a six-month contract, turned her over to coach Natasha Lytess and featured her in the B movie Ladies of the Chorus (1948) in which she sang two numbers.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz saw her in a small part in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and put her in All About Eve (1950), resulting in 20th Century re-signing her to a seven-year contract. Niagara (1953) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) launched her as a sex symbol superstar.
When she went to a supper honoring her The Seven Year Itch (1955) she arrived in a red chiffon gown borrowed from the studio (she had never owned a gown). The same year she married and divorced baseball great 'Joe Dimaggio' (their wedding night was spent in Paso Robles, CA).
After The Seven Year Itch (1955), she wanted serious acting to replace the sexpot image and went to New York's Actors Studio.
She worked with director Lee Strasberg and also underwent psychoanalysis to learn more about herself. Critics praised her transformation in Bus Stop (1956) and the press was stunned by her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.
True to form, she had no veil to match her beige wedding dress so she dyed one in coffee; he wore one of the two suits he owned.
They went to England that fall where she made The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) with Laurence Olivier, fighting with him and falling further prey to alcohol and pills.
Two miscarriages and gynecological surgery followed.
So did an affair with Yves Montand.
Work on her last picture The Misfits (1961), written for her by departing husband Miller was interrupted by exhaustion.
She was dropped from the unfinished Something's Got to Give (1962) due to chronic lateness and drug dependency.
Four months later she was found dead in her Brentwood home of a drug overdose, adjudged "probable suicide".