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February 22, 2014

Susan Marg

Fashion Statement 2

405332-edith-head-google-doodle

“A dress should be tight enough to prove you’re a woman

and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.”

– Edith Head, Costume Designer,

who received thirty-five Oscar nominations, winning eight times.

This year’s nominees are:

Michael Wilkinson for American Hustle.

William Chang Suk Pin for The Grandmaster.

Catherine Martin for The Great Gatsby.

Michael O’Connor for The Invisible Woman.

Patricia Norris for 12 Years a Slave.

(The drawing is a “Google Doodle.”)

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January 29, 2014

Susan Marg

60 Years Ago: Down by the Docks

Oil on canvas 1934 by Pino Janni. Photo by: cliff1066.

Oil on canvas 1934 by Pino Janni. Photo by: cliff1066.

My husband and I watched On the Waterfront from 1954 the other night.  What a movie! Based on a series of articles, it’s about corruption in the longshoremen’s union in New York, although it was shot in Hoboken, Frank Sinatra’s hometown.

Everyone knows that its star Marlon Brando won his first Best Actor Oscar for his role as Terry Molloy.  When he told his brother, “I coulda been a contender,” it was heartbreaking. He had been nominated three times before: in 1951 for his performance as Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire; in 1952 for Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata; and in 1953 for Mark Antony in Julius Caesar.  The later was in the same year that Brando played the iconic rebel biker Johnny Strabler in The Wild One.

Look at who else was in the cast.  Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, and Rod Steiger were all nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  Eva Marie Saint, in her debut film role, won for Best Supporting Actress. Unaccredited actors included Fred Gwynne, Martin Balsam, and Pat Hingle.

Behind the scenes, Elia Kazan directed and Budd Schulberg wrote the screenplay.  They earned Oscars, too.  All told, On the Waterfront had twelve Oscar nominations, including one for Leonard Bernstein for Best Score.

Yep, twelve, and On the Waterfront won in eight categories.

In 1981 Reds, which, coincidentally, was also about unions, albeit it in the 1910s leading up to the Russian revolution, repeated the feat, earning twelve nominations which included recognition for its star, director, and screenwriter, Warren Beatty, as well as Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Maureen Stapleton, other members of the cast.  It won in three categories, losing to Chariots of Fire for Best Picture.

All of this brings us to the current Oscar season.  Gravity and American Hustle, both of which I saw and thought were terrific, each received ten nominations, and Twelve Years a Slave received nine.  Impressive numbers to be sure, but not record-breaking.

Is it too early to say that they don’t make movies like they used to? Or, were there so many good movies this year that will all be around for a long time to come?

Before you answer those questions, On the Waterfront was shot for just under a million dollars and grossed ten times its production costs in its initial release.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Blog

January 22, 2014

Susan Marg

Hollywood or Not

Drew Barrymore:  She has the look. She's the one.

Drew Barrymore: . She has the look. She’s the one.

Not everyone wants to make it in Hollywood.

With the publication of “W is for Wasted,” the 23rd in a series of detective novels named for the alphabet, it’s obvious that author Sue Grafton wants nothing to do with the movie industry, even though fans would love to see her rebellious private investigator Kinsey Millhone on the big screen.

Grafton has been there; done that.

Although publishers had picked up some of Grafton’s early novels, she began writing screenplays for television movies.  Spending fifteen years at her craft, she learned the basics well: structuring a story, writing dialogue, and creating action sequences.

“After my years in Hollywood, I got tired of apologizing for work that really wasn’t mine to begin with.” she explains.

Still, it’s fun to contemplate which actress would best epitomize Grafton’s popular character.  Angelina Jolie is out of the picture, as it’s long been rumored that she will play Kay Scarpetta when a movie based on Patricia Cornwell’s novels finally becomes a reality. I nominate Drew Barrymore.  She has the right amount of spunk and vulnerability.

Better yet, Barrymore has her own production company Flower Films. Applying her abundant charm and perseverance, she might be able to change Grafton’s mind. It’s the movies. Anything’s possible.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Blog

January 8, 2014

Susan Marg

In honor of Elvis’ birthday,

January 8, 1935,

TCM is running Elvis movies – all day.

Double Trouble begins at 6 AM.

For a complete listing, check your TV Guide.

220px-Elvis-double-trouble

 

Blog

December 25, 2013

Susan Marg

Remembering Funny Men

1946 W.C. Fields Christmas card

1946 W.C. Fields Christmas card

Despite appearances, W.C. Fields and Charlie Chaplin had a lot in common.

They were both born into poor families in the late nineteenth century, Fields near Philadelphia in 1880 and Chaplin in London in 1889.  Before catapulting to fame during the silent movie era, Fields was in vaudeville.  He started as a juggler, appearing as a genteel tramp with a scruffy beard and shabby tuxedo, somehow managing to keep cigar boxes, hats, and other flying objects up in the air.

Chaplin, too, began on the vaudeville stage doing comedy sketches.  His impersonation of a drunk dressed in evening attire and top hat, attempting to light a cigar on a light bulb, was one of his most popular roles.

In character, Fields was a hard-drinking misanthrope, playing hustlers and card sharks with an animosity towards dogs and children.  Disputing this, Fields declared, “I like children – fried.”

Chaplin’s “the Tramp” was a good-hearted character who, regardless of his predicament which he often brought upon himself, acted like the perfect gentleman.  The Kid, “a picture with a smile – and perhaps, a tear,” featured seven-year old Jackie Coogan as “the Tramp’s” adopted son and sidekick.

The public adored both Fields and Chaplin, but both were lonely. “I was loved by crowds, but I didn’t have a single close friend,” Chaplin once bemoaned.

Explaining to his family his aversion to Christmas and other “silly holidays”, Fields lamented, “It’s because those days point up a thing called loneliness. An actor on the road — as I was for so long . . . and around the world seven times–finds himself all alone on the days when everyone else has friends and companionship. It’s not too good to be in Australia, or in Scotland, or in South Africa, as I was on tour, all alone on Christmas Day, and to see and hear a lot of happy strangers welcoming that two-faced merriment-monger Santa Claus, who passes you by.”

Still Fields would boast, “Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven.”

Ironically, Fields died on Christmas day, 1946.  In his will, later contested by his estranged wife and one of his two sons (both named William, after the old man), he left a portion of his estate to an orphanage “where no religion of any sort is preached.”

"Christmas Charlie" - By: Mike Margolis

“Christmas Charlie” – By: Mike Margolis

By coincidence, Chaplin, too, passed away on Christmas day, 1977, survived by two sons (including Charles Spencer Chaplin III) from an early marriage and eight children from his fourth and last marriage with Oona O’Neill.

What tremendous legacies these funny men left. They always made us laugh and sometimes made us cry. We remember them with joy in our hearts and good will to all.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Blog

December 11, 2013

Susan Marg

100 Years Ago in Pop Culture:

The Birth of a Filmmaker

thesquawman1

In 1913 actor and filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille began shooting The Squaw Man In Hollywood.

It was a bit of an accident that DeMille and his crew were there.  They had planned to locate to Flagstaff, Arizona, but the weather was so bad that December, nor were the vistas as spectacular as expected, that they took the train to the end of the line and decided to stay, the California climate and scenery being perfect for their endeavor.

The Squaw Man, a romantic drama based on a play, involves an English peer falsely accused of a crime his cousin had committed.  He escapes to the American West and marries an Indian woman, only to return home, without his wife who had died, when he is cleared of all charges.

The six-reeler, the first feature length film made in Hollywood, was a huge success.  DeMille, rather taken with the story, remade the move twice, again as a silent in 1918 and then as a talkie in 1931.

Tyrannical on the set, he wore a whistle around his neck and carried a large megaphone, so his instructions were loud and clear.  Although not an actor’s director, he was loyal to his actors, casting Claudette Colbert, Gloria Swanson, Gary Cooper, Robert Preston, Paulette Goddard, and Charlton Heston in multiple pictures.

DeMille became a celebrity in his own right, dressing the part in an open-necked shirt, riding pants, and boots. However, in his cameo appearance as himself in Sunset Boulevard (1950), he wore a conservative dark suit and tie.

The director’s best known endeavors came late in his career.  He made Samson and Delilah in 1949, The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952, and The Ten Commandments in 1956.  In Egypt filming the Exodus scene for the later, then-75-year-old DeMille climbed to the top of the massive Ramesses set and suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Against his doctor’s orders, DeMille was back directing the film within a week.

Setting his sights on the stars, DeMille was planning a movie about space travel, when he died of a heart ailment in January, 1958.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Blog

December 4, 2013

Susan Marg

Let’s Go to the Movies

I love this time of year.  No, I’m not thinking about holiday parties or hearing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” for the twentieth time in a television commercial. And I certainly won’t spend the month putting together my New Year’s resolutions. I’m talking about the movies!

Photo by: Janine

Photo by: Janine

The Oscar buzz has already started. Frontrunners, per pundits, include 12 Years A Slave and Gravity with Captain Phillips gaining.  It’s a competitive awards season this year, some even call it “cluttered. For me it means more movies worth watching and performances to appreciate.  I’m partial to Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (which I saw last weekend) and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine.

There’s more comedy, drama, romance, fantasy out there: Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Rush, Blue Is The Warmest Color, Before Midnight, Mud, The Place Beyond The Pines, Philomena, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, August: Osage County, The Book Thief, Her, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, Lone Survivor, Labor Day and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

And more to come.  David O. Russell’s American Hustle with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence (what a cast!) is in theaters December 18. The Disney movie Saving Mr. Banks with Tom Hanks (who might be nominated for Best Actor for Captain Phillips) playing Walt Disney opens everywhere December 20, and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street starring Leonardo DiCaprio (and Matthew McConaughey, again, but in a supporting role) opens Christmas Day. The trailers are wild.

I haven’t seen everything I’ve mentioned, nor will I.  I’m usually guided by the reviews, good or bad.  But I’ll be drawn to the cinema again and again.  If I have an appetite for action, I might take in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a runaway success.  It stars a talented young actress who has already scored an Oscar.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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“Let’s Go to the Movies” from “Annie”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wftKf04N5r0

Blog

November 13, 2013

Susan Marg

From the Small Screen to the Silver Screen

What's in a number? Photo by: Mark Morgan

What’s in a number? Photo by: Mark Morgan

In its November 4, 2013 issue, New York magazine released its second annual assessment of “Hollywood’s 100 Most Valuable Stars”.  Their ranking took into account such variables as box office, likability, and Oscar wins and nominations.  Mentions on Twitter counted, too.

Surprise!  Robert Downey Jr. was number one, again, as Iron Man 3 smashed records at the 2013 box office.  Ok, if we’re going by the numbers determined by a formula.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, and Brad Pitt follow on the list. No surprise there, considering such movies as Django, Silver Linings Playbook, The Heat and Gravity, and World War Z, respectively.

However, it was Will Smith at number 6 who caught my eye.  His stated goal was to become “the biggest movie star in the world,” and that he probably was – at some point in time. Smith began making movies while his sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996) was still on the air.  Blockbusters came next.

That got me thinking. What other actors have made the transition from television to the big screen and are considered “valuable” in 2013? There are many of them still going strong, per New York.

Tom Hanks (Bosom Buddies), Johnny Depp (21 Jump Street, not to be confused wtih the 2012 comedy starring Jonah Hill), and Jennifer Aniston (Friends) are in the top sixteen.

If we consider SNL cast members, there’s Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell, both of whom have had quite fruitful movie careers, as well as Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig, who write as well as perform.

Freaks and Greeks was a jumping off point for James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel, although the series was cancelled after twelve episodes.  We loved Mila Kunis in That ’70s Show, Jennifer Garner in Alias, Steve Carrell in The Office, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Third Rock from the Sun, and we love them today.

Justin Timberlake appeared on The New Mickey Mouse Club.  Does that count?

Do you remember Rawhide? That goes back a while. It was a Western in black and white, no less.  Well, Clint Eastwood is still around, still valuable. So, too, is Bruce Willis, having a huge career playing the fast-talking wiseguy from Moonlighting.

I’m sure I missed some.  I’m not as up on television, as I used to be. But ask me about Mad Men or The Good Wife.  Go ahead, ask me.  As for Jon Hamm and Julianne Margulies, I think their stars are golden in any medium. And that’s worth something.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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To see New York’s “Hollywood’s 100 Most Valuable Stars,” visit: http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/most-valuable-movie-stars.html#/all/vulture-rankings

Blog

October 27, 2013

Susan Marg

5 Ways to Enjoy a Hollywood-Style Halloween

Hollywood is haunted.  Make no bones about it. There are skeletons in the closet and rumors rattling the actors.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the living from the walking dead. So, do as the fear-mongers on Sunset Boulevard do, and have a spirited Halloween.

Gloria Swanson and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. Now that's scary.

Gloria Swanson and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. Now that’s scary.

1. Rent a costume.

Are you having trouble deciding to be traditional or original?  Dressing as a gangsta like James Cagney or a rapper such as Jay-Z? Then visit the Western Costume Company. They rent thousands of costumes from major motion pictures for Halloween. Even if you’re located in another part of the country, their website has some great ideas.

2. Wear makeup instead of a mask.

If you go this route, take some advice from Oscar-winning makeup effect artist Rick Baker: “Painting on a face is like painting on a canvas.  You have to understand the principles of highlight and shadow.”  To participate in the zombie zeitgeist, that’s so today, “Use oil-based paint sticks for the black shadow and a black eyebrow pencil to add lines and highlights.”

3. Put on your dancing shoes.

At Hollywood Forever Cemetery the party to celebrate Dia de los Meurtos, on November 2 this year, starts rockin’ after dark with hundreds of Aztec Ritual Dancers in full costume and musical performances on three stages.  What’s happening at your local burying grounds?

4. Visit a haunted house.

If the current residents of the house where Ozzie and Harriet and their sons David and Rickie lived in Hollywood have experienced unusual phenomenon, who’s to say that the dwelling down the street wouldn’t make the perfect place to hold a séance.

5. Watch a movie.

Heads will roll and bodies will pile up, whether you’re into icky, creepy, bloody, gutsy, scary or all of the above.  After all, movies are what Hollywood does best.

Halloween: it’s not just about the candy anymore.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

 

Blog

October 17, 2013

Susan Marg

On Hollywood Boulevard:

Something Old, Something New

Some of the cast of Ocean's Eleven? No, it's Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo, and Chico Marx with Sid Grauman - 1933.  Photo from: Dennis Amith

Some of the cast of Ocean’s Eleven? No, it’s Harpo, Groucho, Zeppo, and Chico Marx with Sid Grauman – 1933. Photo from: Dennis Amith

Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre was reopened in September after a four-month renovation.  Now called TCL, rather than Grauman’s, after a Chinese television manufacturer bought naming rights, the venue now has one of the country’s largest IMAX screens and almost a thousand stadium seats, once again spacious enough to host movie premieres and accommodate the attendant paparazzi.

But the best news for movie fans?  The iconic imprints of our favorite superstars are still in place.

In 1927 Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford, the King of Hollywood and America’s Sweetheart, as well as co-owners of the theater with Sid Grauman, were the first to officially step in wet cement.  They each had their own square smack dab in front of the entrance.

Many others, by themselves, as a couple, or in a group, have followed.

It must be lonely on the range because singing cowboys signed for themselves and their horse. If you look around, you’ll find Tom Mix and Tony, Gene Autry and Champion, Roy Rogers and Trigger.  “Happy trails” to you and your four-legged partner, too.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are co-located, although he got his square in 1938 and she followed, as usual, one year later.

Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy share space, as do Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, and Groucho, who also left an imprint of his cigar, fell all over themselves to get their hands dirty.

When Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was released in 1953, Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe were memorialized in adjoining areas, writing the movie title above their signatures. Three years later in honor of the movie Giant, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and director George Stevens left their mark on the same day. If this was some sort of stunt to publicize their movies, who cares?

Certainly not Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon fans. A big crowd greeted them and producer Jerry Weintraub of Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen at their signing-in ceremony in 2007. As Clooney said, “If I had to be on my hands and knees with three other guys, I can’t think of three better guys to do it with.”

Do you think the Star Trek cast plus creator Gene Roddenberry were thinking the same thing when they were honored with a square in 1991? After all, together they had gone “where no man has gone before.” They are to the right of the box office. Star Wars stars Darth Vader, R2D2, and C3PO are on the left.

More recently the Twilight Saga‘s Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner celebrated the release of Breaking Dawn — Part 1 by participating in this Hollywood tradition.  Stewart summed up the experience exclaiming, “I think this is the coolest thing ever.”

If the past is a guide to the future, as an ancient Chinese proverb divines, the popularity of the Chinese Theatre, regardless of its name, is ensured for a long time to come.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved