"The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" ... Bogart, Shakespeare, The Maltese Falcon, Those Great Movies

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best 7 Minute, 49 Second Movie You'll Ever See

I intended to work on the next post in my series, Overlooked at the Oscars, Part 2 -- but I didn't feel like it.  That's all.  No good reason.  Just didn't.  (Ah, what a great example of pithy writing ...)  Actually, I am in a dreamy mood, and this little post fits the bill tonight.

So I went to YouTube and found my favorite 7 minute, 49 second film, "Let's Face the Music and Dance."  I call it that because it is a musical mini-drama which stands on its own within a movie.  You don't even have to watch the movie, which is good, because Follow The Fleet (1936) is not my favorite Astaire/Rogers plot.  It actually bores me to tears.  But oh, the song by Irving Berlin, the fabulous dance at the very end ...  It's worth sitting through the rest of the show, although thanks to modern technology (and YouTube poster, iumuggle *thanks!*), I don't have to.  As a devoted Rogers/Astaire fan, I believe without doubt that this is the best work they ever did.  That's hard to say, because "Cheek to Cheek" is so perfect; however, this is not just a dance.  It's a film equivalent of a short story, with their partnership at its greatest.  Pay attention at the beginning, because you will see a very young, platinum-blonde Lucille Ball.  We also get to see one of Ginger's most gorgeous gowns, a bugle-beaded treasure of a costume.  It's lovely, looks ethereal, and was so heavy that one of the sleeves whacked Fred across the face and really hurt!  My friend and fellow blogger, Christian of Silver Screen Modiste (see the link to his marvelous blog in my sidebar blogroll), mentioned in one of his articles about Hollywood gowns that the dress weighed about 30 pounds.  At this point in her life, Ginger doesn't look like she weighs a whole lot more than that!

I hope you have 7 minutes and 49 seconds to see the best at their best, with, I must say, the most sophisticated, dramatic exit of all the great dance endings they ever did!

Overlooked at the Oscars, Part 2 coming soon....

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dueling Divas Blogathon ... In Manly Style!

*This article is my contribution to the Dueling Divas Blogathon sponsored by Lara at Backlots, one of my favorite movie blogs.  Follow the link on my sidebar just to the right of this article to find the other entries for this fun project!

Dueling Divas are usually 2 actresses who hate each other in real life, or 2 female characters in a movie who spar verbally through the whole thing.  My take on dueling divas is a little different.  The title of diva can be used for men as well as women, but let's face it ... it just doesn't sound masculine.  Mine really duel -- with swords -- to the death.  I thought, OK, maybe I could call them some more manly version of the word.  I thought of Dueling Divos, but that reminded me too much of these guys ...

"Whip it ... whip it good!"
So I went looking for other words, and I found the perfect name -- Dueling Demigods!  Did I hear someone snicker out there?  Well, I thought it was good.  It's a little pagan, but then so are the feelings of women (and men) everywhere who watch movie stars in doublets and tights as they parry and thrust!  Whew, gosh, is it hot in here, or is it just me?

I don't feel like writing anything of depth and profound wisdom right now -- I just feel like having fun showing some of the really good sword fights in really good movies with the best of the Dueling Demigods.  So, with a mindset of complete objectivity and no particular preference, I immediately chose Errol Flynn and my mind went blank thereafter.  No, not really ... I did think of two others.  But first, The Great Flynn:

(notice how I used red letters? ... blood ... red ... get it?)

Errol Flynn as Captain Blood and Basil Rathbone as Captain Levasseur ...
The obligatory close-up and blade-pushing contest ...
Poor Basil gets it in the end ...

A point of interest -- Basil Rathbone was in real life a very fine swordsman.  It's too bad he was always the one skewered in the movies!


(notice how I used green letters ... Sherwood forest, green trees ... get it?)

Errol as Robin Hood and Basil as the Sheriff of Nottingham ...
Another blade-pushing close-up ... the formula always worked!

Basil looks determined to win this one for a change!
Oh man!  Skewered again!


(notice how I used blue letters? ... seahawk ... the ocean blue ... get it?)

Duel No. 1 -- just a warm-up

Errol Flynn as, who else, the Sea Hawk! With Gilbert Roland as his Spanish opponent ...

Flynn triumphs in the end ... was there any doubt?

Duel No. 2 -- In my opinion, one of the best sword fights ever put on film.

Henry Daniell as Duke something-or-other ....

Here it is again, kids ... it does look great!

Take that, you ... you ... lousy duellist, you!
A point of interest -- Henry Daniell, a fine actor and great villain, was so bad at trying to mimic swordplay that he was only in posed pictures/close-ups.  All of the other scenes during the sword fight were doubled by someone who was actually coordinated.  Flynn was quite good at his swordplay technique, yet he -- yes, even HE -- had to be doubled in a fabulous long shot of the duellists moving incredibly quickly across a large room, using the beautiful legwork that only a trained professional could do.  I was so frustrated that I could not find any other really good pictures of this fabulous duel!


(notice how I used black letters ... Zorro wore black ... get it?)

There were many wonderful duels in movies.  However, besides The Great Flynn, I think another memorable one (not to mention beautiful) is Tyrone Power as Zorro.  Once again, expert Basil Rathbone must pretend that he couldn't take Power within 15 seconds of an actual duel ...

Tyrone as Zorro, and Basil as ... what was his name anyway?
I won't even bother to say it again ...
Man, I've had it!  I'm signing up for the Sherlock Holmes deal!

And we can't forget one of the most memorable sword scenes of all:

Well, I hope you enjoyed my Dueling Demigods ... now I'm going to watch these movies again over the weekend!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Overlooked at the Oscars -- Part One

"Made it, Ma!  Top of the world!"  But NOT at the Oscars...
Most classic movie lovers have seen it ... all lovers of classic gangster movies have seen it.  Did the Oscar voters of 1949 have their eyes and ears closed?  I'm highlighting one scene in James Cagney's White Heat, an incredibly powerful scene, that even as a stand-alone should have put him in the running for best actor of 1949, and I'm not even talking about the incredible now-iconic ending.  White Heat is considered by many, including me, as Cagney's greatest dramatic performance, and as the movie that tops all of the great classic-era gangster movies.  The golden age of Hollywood was known for its snubbing of these films at Oscar time, and this was the worst brush-off of all.

White Heat is a near-perfect crime drama.  It's only flaw lies in a few distracting and unnecessary scenes of modern FBI surveillance techniques.  However, the riveting story, the top-notch direction of Raoul Walsh, the performances of every member of the cast, and particularly Cagney, pushed those scenes way into the backdrop.  As Cody Jarrett, the sociopathic head of a criminal gang, and a son who clings to his aging outlaw Ma with disturbing overtones of mental incest, Cagney brings all of his many talents to work.

The scene which showcases the best of Cagney takes place in a prison dining hall.  Cody has been fearful for his Ma's life, and asks a recently incarcerated acquaintance about her.  The result is nothing less than startling.  It is known now that Cagney asked Walsh to just begin shooting the scene, not revealing what he intended to do with it.  He only asked that two strong guys be placed on either side of him at the table.  You cannot mistake the genuine shock on the faces of not only the extras, but also co-star Edmund O'Brien. They didn't have to act with this one.  Cagney's chilling reaction is delivered in a way that attendants at an insane asylum might easily recognize as the behavior of insanity.

Cagney was not even nominated for best actor, nor was Walsh for best director, nor the movie itself.  White Heat was totally excluded from the Oscars, except for one failed nomination for the story.  Broderick Crawford won best actor that year for All the King's Men, and although it was a very good movie, I do not believe it deserved  the top award of Best Movie.  While Crawford's performance was quite good, Cagney's was superb.  It is inexplicable to me that Cagney was completely passed over.  (If you are a fan of the classic gangster movies, see my series "Mobsters, Pals and Skirts" -- posted on this blog in April, 2011.)

My next installment in "Overlooked at the Oscars" will deal with another hard-to-believe loss in 1996.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Blowing My Own Horn...Just A Little

Vincent Price as The Abominable Dr. Phibes,
with his minion, Vulnavia  (gotta love that name!)
Hey, how come this guy gets a great-looking girlfriend
and I haven't had a date in .... Oh ... never mind ...

I'd like to thank all the gals at True Classics for awarding 2nd place to my Vincent Price limerick in their contest.  Congratulations to first place winner Jill, and third place winner Natalie.  Writing the limericks was a lot of fun, and now I will have a wonderful collection of Buster Keaton short films to enjoy!  Here is my winning limerick:

The crazed Dr. Phibes, played by Price,
Loved to kill with creative device.
He was mad as a hatter,
But what does that matter?
His methods were all so precise!

Specially crafted spiral of blood

Now this is precision, with style!

Neatly arranged bottles of blood


I submitted other limericks, but in true limerick style several of them are of adult content.  They are available to read by request, and they cost $5 a peek ...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Special Thanks Today for Inspired Filmmakers

Thanksgiving is the perfect day to share some favorite, heartwarming scenes ...

The original:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Well, what's wrong with it?  You're not having roasted deer today!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Say It Isn't So! October Is Over?!

Now what do I do?

The great Universal horror classics, Val Lewton's eerie films, the fun of William Castle's crazy scares, Hammer's wonderful movies ... all in mothballs for another year.  Oh, a few get trotted out every once in a while the other 11 months, but nothing compares with the unfailing flood of the best horror during October on Turner Classic Movies.

I'm not the only one who mourns the passing of the month of gods and monsters:

"October good ... November bad"
(Boris Karloff, Universal's Frankenstein)

"Dude, this really breaks my heart"
(Christopher Lee, Hammer's Dracula)

"You're scared?  I never get hired for anything but horror flicks!"
(Darby Jones, Val Lewton's I Walked With A Zombie)

"I never get to be on TCM anyway ... maybe The Walking Dead is auditioning"
(unidentified sad zombie girl)

"You mean nobody wants me anymore?"
(Fredric March as Mr. Hyde)

"Back to the sewer again?!"
(Lon Chaney, Phantom of the Opera)

"Yes! That's right!  Unemployment for the rest of the year!"
(William Castle's House on Haunted Hill)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Favorite TV Horror Host - Sammy Terry, The Ghoul That Ruled!

At the start, he was black and white ...
In color, he was a sight ...

Sammy, dear Sammy,
Your  jokes were so hammy.
Your face was all green,
Your hands looked so clammy.

You rose from your coffin,
Our courage would soften.
Your laugh was so evil
That we'd all stop talkin'.

Friday was your night
To give us a big fright.
When we went to bed,
We needed a night light.

Thanks, Sammy Terry,
For being so scary.
To all of us kids
You are legendary.

We kids are all grown up now, very grown up, but we all remember Sammy and Friday night Nightmare Theatre.  We didn't know it then, but Sammy Terry was Bob Carter, a reporter who worked for Sarkes Tarzian, the gentleman who owned WTTV Channel 4 in Indianapolis.  The show started out in 1962 as Carter's Shock Theatre, but soon morphed into Nightmare Theatre with host Sammy Terry.  I hate to admit how long it took for me to realize that his name was a take on cemetery, but I was just a kid so I guess I can be forgiven.

Sammy showed movies that were good, many that were awful, but all were of the horror genre and all were fun. It seems to me that Vincent Price's House on Haunted Hill was on every other week, but that's just my memory, I guess.  Sammy would interrupt the movie occasionally to comment on it, usually with puns that were real groaners.  In his dungeon lair, Sammy had a friend, George the spider, who was always hanging around -- groan.  His young son Mark appeared once in a while as another friend, Ghoulsby.  When the show started, Sammy's coffin lid would creak loudly and he would sit up.  Sometimes the coffin would tip a little as he stood, but we never held that against him.  There were some stories about Sammy, which we thought were all completely true.  One I remember particularly is that Sammy fell asleep in his coffin after the show, and some of the crew decided to put him into the back of a truck, drove him out to a deserted road and left him there.  I sure like to think that really happened.

The Screaming Skull!
I have 6 brothers and sisters, and we all sat on the floor in a semi-circle around the TV to watch Sammy every Friday night.  My very favorite memory of Nightmare Theatre involves humiliating my big brother, who always made fun of the rest of us for getting scared during the movie.  He would sit there chomping his popcorn and acting very superior about those "dumb movies" and our tendency to watch a lot of things through our fingers.  Of course, he never missed Sammy either.  One night, Sammy showed The Screaming Skull.  To me, it had a few shivers, but I didn't think it was very scary.  Then I looked over at my brother, and his face was a little pale.  He was scared, actually scared, and I was so delighted!  I think that was the first time he was ever really spooked, and after much razzing, admitted he hated skeletons and skulls.  One scene in particular made him jump, and being the sweet, rosy-cheeked little sister that I was, I NEVER LET HIM FORGET IT!  Revenge is sweet.  I won't even tell you the whole story of how I treated him when he was in love with a girl named Cathy, who didn't like him, and the Everley Brothers came out with their song "Cathy's Clown."  But I digress...

Sammy Terry and Nightmare Theatre ended in 1989, but I'll never forget him.  Bob Carter still lives in Indiana, and unfortunately is too ill to take on his alter-ego in personal appearances as he has done for years.  But Sammy Terry lives because of his son Mark.  Mark took over the cloak and makeup, and performs online and in person (see link below)..  He looks remarkably like his Dad, and even has the voice down perfectly.  He never appears in public without his makeup, which I think is pretty cool.  (Well, I imagine he doesn't wear the makeup to church or anything like that.)  But here is a clip of my Sammy in his prime, doing his introduction.  Those were the days.

The clip and some of the pictures are from Sammy's official website, http://www.sammyterrynightmares.com/home.html.  You can find out more about Sammy Terry there, and even find some great stuff to buy.  I might just get a T-shirt!

This post is part of the Horror Host blogathon sponsored by the Classic TV Blog Association.  To find the complete list of bloggers, click on http://classic-tv-blog-assoc.blogspot.com/2012/10/classic-tv-horror-host-blogathon.html

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rub-A-Dub-Dub ... 6 Stars In The Tub

October is my favorite month ... autumn in Indiana and horror movies on TCM.  I am working on entries for two blogathons this month:  Speakeasy's Val Lewton blogathon for which I am doing my take on I Walked With A Zombie; and the Classic TV Blog Association's Horror Host blogathon, for which I am doing a piece on my favorite TV ghoul, Sammy Terry's Nightmare Theatre.  It's going to take some time and effort to do them up right.  So, for the interim, here's something that takes no effort to speak of.  I can't remember why it occurred to me, but I think seeing movie stars in the bathtub is fun.

The classic gangster in the tub ... cigar, drink, newspaper and fan ...
(Edward G. Robinson in "Key Largo")

This little piggy will go to market clean!
(Bob Hope in "Son of Paleface")
*This pic is courtesy of our very own Ivan of Thrilling Days etc.*
I believe he has a large framed version on his living room wall

He doesn't look too happy -- and boy, what scummy water!
(Clint Eastwood in "High Plains Drifter")

A modern gangster's bubble bath ... cigar, drink , AC and a TV remote
(Al Pacino in "Scarface")

I'm sure Dana Andrews would rather be looking at Gene Tierney
(Clifton Webb in "Laura")
Sorry, all you hopeful men -- I forgot to mention that it was not about women in the tub, didn't I?  Well, just for the male readers, here's something anyway...

She looks a lot better out of the tub than in 
(Jack Nicholson and nameless ... uh ... ladies in "The Shining")

Tragically, I wasn't able to find a single picture of Errol Flynn in the tub -- now that would be my idea of fun.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Goodbye, Andy ...

Just a short and personal tribute to Andy Williams, who died yesterday, September 25, 2012 ... Christmas at my house always included Andy and his family Christmas shows.  My Mom and Dad and all 7 of us kids sat around the TV with just the lights of our honest-to-goodness real Christmas tree.  I suppose now the shows would seem dated and even nerdy to a lot of people.  For me they will always be sweet and fun, and actually celebrated Christmas as the birth of the Savior.  What a radical, politically incorrect thing to do!  This is my favorite Christmas song which Andy sang for one of his yearly shows, a difficult song to sing, but he could really belt it out.  I can never listen to it without remembering those years with  my family.

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities." (Frank Lloyd Wright)

I could have just done a one-sentence post ... I'm Back and I'm Happy ... but
I think I'll take a tip from Little Caesar and make a toast:  "Here's to my return to the cyberworld!"
After a couple of months without the internet, I've been ready to follow Frank Lloyd Wright's view on life ... that's the only way I would get back on.  I thought perhaps I could do without heat this winter, or maybe even cut out groceries .... No, not that!  Thanks to a wonderful person in my life, I don't have to do either of those things.  I was blessed with someone who loves me enough to force me to forget pride (yes, it's true -- I have a hard time taking help) and accept with deep gratitude her offer to help.  And boy, it came in the nick of time -- I wasn't sure I could get through an Indiana winter without being able to write for my blog, and enjoy the other great blogs I follow, without going stark, raving mad.  Not to mention all of the other things you can't do without the internet.  It is a luxury -- so many people are struggling to have the basic necessities -- but if you have the means, you find that communication and research have changed so much that it has become difficult to do without.  Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition, but don't you just have to sometimes?  What could I say ... without which it is difficult to do?  In a conversation, sometimes rigid grammar has to take a back seat, don't you think?

I'm thrilled to be back with the CMBA and all it means to me.  I will be visiting all my favorite blogs and getting back into the swing of things.  Hallelujah!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Sign Says It ...

Yes, that's enervation ... the kind of exhaustion that comes from crunching numbers every month while attempting to pay the bills.  Well, some things have to go, and my internet service is one of them.  It's a blow, but if I've learned anything on this earthly plane, it is that nothing stays the same forever.   Someday ... (please insert your own fantasy here -- eg. my prince will come, the economy will re-start,  I'll win the lottery, etc.).

Remember W.C. Fields as Mr. Micawber in Dickens' Oliver Twist?

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, result -- happiness.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty one pounds, result -- misery."

Is that a great nutshell explanation of finances, or what?!  Take care, my movie friends.  Periodic updates will appear here at ClassicBecky's Brain Food, and of course someday ... (insert fantasy here).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Four Faces of Andy ... He Was Never Just A Face In The Crowd ...

Andy Griffith's death is all over the internet today.  He was a hilarious country bumpkin comedian in his early years, an actor of great dramatic talent in the late 50's, the country's most loved small-town sheriff and father in the 60's, and a savvy elderly lawyer in his later years.  I just felt that I had to remember all of the faces of Andy Griffith.

His best comedy album -- I laughed 'til I cried with his country boy's
explanations of:  "What It Was Was Football" and "Romeo and Juliet."

"A Face in the Crowd" from 1957.  One of the most powerful performances on film.
For those who only know him as Sheriff Taylor, you wouldn't believe
the same actor could be such a terrifying character.

Andy and Barney ... part of my childhood I will always love and never forget. 

A large audience of people didn't care that Matlock was
coined as a show for the geriatric crowd -- they loved it anyway.

We will never really miss Andy -- he will be all over the airways for many years to come, God willing.  If you are in the mood, I picked out one of my top favorite Andy Griffith shows for you -- "The Pickle Story".

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I Know Where You Are, Dad...

This record album is one we had when I was a kid.  "Where Are You?" is still one of my favorite Sinatra songs.  We used to make my Dad pose just like Sinatra, arm over the face, cigarette held just so ... I swear, he looked just like him that way.  Dad would sometimes pretend he was annoyed when we clamored for him to pose, but he was such a ham, and he always did it for us.  He did everything for us.  He adored my Mom and devoted himself to her and his seven kids  He was a good writer and photographer, a devout Catholic who worked hard to put us through Catholic school.  He taught me to love reading, Shakespeare, classical music, and started me on my life-long love of classic movies.  He was wonderfully funny, with the kind of dark and intelligent wit I've always liked the most.  He was like ... well, like Robert Preston in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Clifton Webb in Cheaper By The Dozen, Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird ... all rolled into one.  Shakespeare always says it best, it seems ... when Hamlet describes his dead father to friend Horatio, he says, "He was a man, take him for all in all.  I shall not look upon his like again."

My Dad, Don Barnes, died in 1978 at the age of 52.  The youngest of his well-loved children was only 15.  The absence of that powerful presence left its mark on all of us.  We all knew how lucky we were to have had such a father, and his place has never been filled.  When I think of him, I remember what went through my head the day he died.  I thought of it because I had learned it from him.  It is what Horatio said to his dying friend, Hamlet, "Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."  Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

He Never Really Belonged On The Science Fiction Shelf ...

I've heard it said that the world cannot afford to lose a great man.  We lost one yesterday, and what his quote above says to me is that we can ill afford it in today's artistic culture (or lack thereof).  Ray Bradbury shaped my reading tastes in a profound way, was responsible in a big way for my passion for reading, and his books have their own shelf in my big bookcase.  When I read about Bradbury's death, I remembered working as a page at the public library when I was in high school.  I would put away returned books and work at what we called reading the shelves, making sure they were in order.  I knew every book in that library by the time I graduated.  Fiction, biography, westerns, cookbooks, non-fiction of every sort ... I could tell people where everything could be found.  I remember that the head librarian once said that Bradbury's work needed their own classification.  They were always put into the science fiction section, but his incredible body of work just doesn't fit with technological space fiction, robots and cosmic wars.

Bradbury was a poet who wrote in prose.  He could catch at your fears, your thrills and your heart all in one short story.  He wrote many books, countless short stories, essays, and actually was able to improve Melville with his contributions to the script for the movie Moby Dick.  That says a lot to me, as I tend to be a purist when it comes to filming literature.  He remembered childhood better than any other writer, the feelings, the dreams ... his friends and family said he really was just a big kid all his life.  How wonderful for us.  In my small way, I would like to pay tribute to this great writer just by naming my very favorites of his books and short stories.  Just the titles are like poetry.

Short stories:  The Golden Apples of the Sun ... Kaleidoscope ... There Will Come Soft Rains ... The Veldt ... The Fog Horn ... The Sound Of Thunder ... The Homecoming ... Uncle Einar ... The Long Rain ... Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed ... The Whole Town is Sleeping ...

Books:  Something Wicked This Way Comes ... R Is For Rocket ... S Is For Space ... The Martian Chronicles (collection) ... Dandelion Wine ... Fahrenheit 451 ... The Illustrated Man ...

It is so difficult to pick, but those are the ones that pop into my head first, which will remain forever in my mind and heart.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

What Do You Want For Your Birthday?

Don't you hate it when your birthday or Christmas are coming up and somebody says "Give me some gift ideas".  My brain automatically goes into freeze mode.  Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, the minute I get on Santa's lap (metaphorically speaking), I completely forget my wish list of gifts I really want.  I always want classic movies.  I have a huge collection on VHS, which are all getting very old and are giving out.

I have a significant birthday coming up in July.  So I went to the TCM shopping page and decided to put a few things in the cart to keep and refer to when I get the question.  An hour later, I had a list that totals $802.76.  I don't suppose any of my friends and readers would care to pitch in with my family?  That shopping site is completely addictive.  I couldn't stop!  Finally my sister called me, or I would still be on there!

Collections are the best, of course.  And the most expensive!  Dream along, Miss Becky.....

Just a small example...these range in price from expensive to really expensive...of course I picked plenty that are just one-movie DVDs, and they are affordable, mostly.  Moby Dick, An American in Paris, Streetcar Named Desire, The Dawn Patrol, W.C. Fields shorts....in other words, a lot!

Now I'm worried that I will somehow get $802.76 worth of DVDs, and someone will invent yet another piece of technology that will make these obsolete.  Probably something that will be the size of my little fingernail, requiring a machine the size of my cell phone.  How does a girl on a limited income keep up with all this?  Well, anyway, my gift ideas are ready to peruse, just in case some friend or family gets rich, or if a distant uncle dies and leaves me a lot of money (however, I think all my distant uncles are already dead).

If you could have any movie gift you wanted, what would it be?