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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Despicable Dames

I think it would be fun to give a nod to some of the truly nasty ladies on screen who are not given the spotlight very often.  Of course there are the oft-discussed greats like Bette Davis in The Letter or Of Human Bondage and Gene Tierney in Leave Her To Heaven -- but there are other wicked women in wonderful movies.  I've chosen six who have absolutely no redeeming qualities, not even remorse at the end.  No mental illness, no childhood traumas -- they are just evil, plain and simple.

Glamorous Olga Baclanova as Venus, the trapeze artist, in Freaks (1932)

This nasty woman works her wiles on a love-struck little person
(Harry Earles).  Her greed and incredible cruelty give her
a special place in the annals of  despicable dames.
 But Venus gets hers in the end:

Not a cute chick anymore...


Gorgeous Claudette Colbert as Empress Poppea in The Sign of the Cross (1932).

DeMille always created larger-than-life characters, and Poppea certainly qualifies.  She does her best to corrupt a Roman centurion (Fredric March), routinely cheats on her admittedly disgusting husband, Nero (Charles Laughton), submits a beautiful Christian girl (Elissa Landi) to orgies, and looks forward to watching the Christian-chewing lions.

Platinum vamp Jean Harlow turned Red-Headed Woman (1932)

"Red" wastes no time or effort in luring a weak husband (Chester Morris) away from his heart-broken wife.  Red will stop at nothing for his name and money, but still wants more.  She has an affair with an older rich man AND his chauffeur (young Charles Boyer).  Oh, and she LOVES it when Chester hits her (and he seems to like that a lot).    (Perhaps they really were made for each other.)

Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles' version of Macbeth (1948)

Shakespeare's queen of Scotland is one of the great evil women in literature.  Her ambition is limitless, driving her to corrupt her morally weak husband so far as to murder the king. When Macbeth cannot do it, she snatches the knives from his hands and does the bloody deed herself, scorning him for his unmanliness.  Of course, she gets hers in the end as well, losing her mind completely, but you can't feel sorry for her -- she did it to herself.  As Rhett said to Scarlett:  "You are like the thief who is not the least bit sorry he stole, but is very, very sorry he is going to jail."

Sian Phillips as Livia in the BBC production of  I, Claudius (1976)

No, she is not from the classic era of the silver screen, but Livia is probably the most despicable dame on any screen, and this is a true story.  As wife to Roman Emperor Augustus (Brian Blessed), Livia spends years poisoning every heir to Augustus' throne who is in the way of her own son, Tiberius.  Her victims include her other uncooperative children, nieces, nephews, including at last her own husband.  Livia, a real Empress of Rome, proves that nothing can top real life.

And let's not forget ...
The Wicked Witch of the East ... we hardly knew ye ... R.I.P. 1939

The men will get their turn -- there are many god-awful guys to discuss at a later date.  Do you have any favorite despicable dames?  I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Classic Movie Dogathon: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Classic Film and TV Cafe is sponsoring a Dogathon -- movies about or featuring some of the most memorable canine actors.  My contribution is a little tribute to a dog that scared me to death.  My first Sherlock Holmes movie experience as a little girl was 1939's The Hound of the Baskervilles.  I fell in love with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson, a love that continues.  I fell in love with Baskerville Hall and the bleak, eerie English moors.  As for the Hound -- I have always been afraid of big dogs, and he was a BIG dog.

The Hound was played by a 156-pound Great Dane.  His real name was Blitzen (German for flash or lightning), but in 1939, when Hitler was beginning his devastating march across Europe, 20th Century Fox decided that a name with such a Teutonic overtone was not acceptable.  His name was changed to Chief -- personally, I think Gargantua would have suited him better.  

Despite my best efforts, I was not able to find any kind of bio of Chief.  I don't know if he ever played in other movies.  To me, though, he was the most unforgettable movie dog ever.  I did learn that Great Danes, despite their huge size and dominating look, are actually called gentle giants. Chief was certainly a giant, but he did not look gentle as the Hound.  He was terrifying.

There have been other versions of the The Hound of the Baskervilles, some very good, one or two probably even better, but this one lives in my memory as my introduction to the beloved team of Rathbone and Bruce, one of the best movie sets of the moors, my love for the shadowy beauty of black and white film, and Chief, the Hound that scared a little girl who still watched the movie any time it was on.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Just For Fun -- A Re-Post Of One Of My Favorites!

My Faithful Readers know me as a real purist with classic film -- I saw a commercial years ago that had used special effects to have Fred Astaire doing one of his best numbers with a vacuum cleaner replacing the girl.  I almost had to call paramedics to be taken to the hospital!  So this is a surprise to me ... in looking for Gene Kelly numbers on YouTube, I ran across a tribute to Kelly set to 80's singing star Robert Palmer's hit song, "Simply Irresistible."  My first thought was, oh Lord, here we go again.  I've seen several posts on there which replace the music from classic film musical number with stupid rap songs or disco crap.  Makes me sick and shivery every time.

This is completely different.  For one thing, I love Robert Palmer and this great song, but even that wouldn't do it.  The creator of this clip, KYO175,  put an incredible amount of work into it.  The clips of several Kelly dance numbers actually match the rhythm of the song, and it's absolutely thrilling.  To anyone who knows me, they know it has to be really good for me to even like it, much less highlight and share it.  Hope you like it too!

In case the embedded version does not work, just follow this link:

Thank you KYO175 for your creation, which matches its name!