Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

May this be a grand and gay night, with no bad news lurking to ambush you by phone (or other modern method), and may 2009 bring us all what we're looking for.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Missing's the word."

18,000 words on the cursed fanfic story, just a few thousand words left to reach the end... and I'm stuck. I've outlined the whole thing up to present (after writing it) to make sure everything's in the right order (almost, but not quite). I've freewritten. I've daydreamed. I've played with the dog. I've read more of the novel I'm reading. I've watched half of Alvarez Kelly again (I've decided I think I need to own that one - the subject line is one of my favorite smug WH quotes from it, only I'm feeling anything but smug). I've done more freewriting but, mostly, I keep rewording the same damned question, the one I can't answer, the "why" question that's halted me in my tracks, hoping that maybe if I reword it just so, the answer will jump out at me.

Thinking about it now, I did let myself go slightly astray in the story, which might have been a bad idea. It gave me a new cool scene and direction, but I think all I did was complicate matters. And to go this direction, I had to throw out a scene that's been in my head from very early on... I'm wondering what might happen if I yank the new scene and re-write more along the original lines, might that eliminate the problem? No, cuz the nasty question still remains unanswered, and I can't move forward until I know the answer. Grrr.

Can't write a nice simple story, no... it has to have enough subplots, character arcs, and povs for a novel. Seems to be a commonality in my longer fanfic stories lately... and that makes them both logistical nightmares and, despite my frustrations, very fun.

(And I think I need to write a post sometime about the Movie Clothes I Wished I Owned. Like Dana's jacket in The Ox-Bow Incident.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"He's kinda grand, ain't he?"

I am such a dork. I was in the mood for a Joel McCrea western, so I bumped this movie, The Silver Horde (1930), to the top of my netflix queue. There are a couple of big things wrong with this idea of mine:

1. I insisted on interpreting "Horde" as "Hoard," and, as the vague description was about an adventurer in Alaska making his fortune, I assumed it would be a Western reminiscent of The Far Country, just with silver instead of gold.

2. I know JMC didn't make any Westerns until a few years later.

Uh... duh, Deb! What were you thinking??

So, the silver horde referenced by the title is... salmon, and the movie was set in modern times (relatively speaking) and was about rival fisheries and salmon canning. No hoard of silver. No back-stabbing claim jumpers. Not a single cowboy or a horse within sight. Instead, there were manicurists (darned funny scene), evening gowns and JMC in one of his oh-so-wonderfully fitted tuxes, some lovely real Alaska scenery, and some sled dogs. Not to mention lots of salmon and the cannery operations...

After my initial disappointment (and laughing at my own blind wishful thinking), I found a fun movie with a few surprises. A few spoilers follow...

JMC plays one of those bright-eyed and rather naive do-gooder types, out to make his fortune, and having no luck at it. He's given a business opportunity by Cherry (Evelyn Brent), a famous woman of ill-repute that everybody's heard of -- except JMC. The villain is this "no one competes with my fishery, mwah-hah-hah *rubs thin moustache* kind of guy. He's also trying to marry (naturally!) JMC's wealthy scoiety girl, Mildred, who's played by Jean Arthur. Naturally, with the unknown help of Cherry, JMC's cannery succeeds, which forces the bad guy to implement various nasty plans to stop him and results in a very cool giant brawl -- on the fishing fleet, no less! Woo! This scene actually looked rather dangerous to film: the two rival fleets colliding mid-river, cannery workers from both sides jumping between moving ships, fighting and throwing each other overboard. Yikes! A love triangle between Cherry, Mildred, and JMC anchors the rest of the story. Of course, JMC eventually discovers Cherry's reputation and has an angry meltdown. There's also a couple fabulous confrontations between the two women. In the big one, Mildred, our respectable society girl is dressed all in white, Cherry's dressed in black... but when all's said and done, guess who JMC actually ends up with? Yeah, Cherry, the woman with a reputation from San Francisco to Sitka. I'm not sure that would have happened if this movie had been made a few years later. I actually cheered when he dumped Mildred to go to Cherry, because Mildred (cute as Jean Arthur is) was annoying and shallow and selfish and just so not the right match, but I was sure the movie couldn't possibly let him end up with a famous prostitute. Particularly after the villain is exposed as still being married to another prostitute!! But it did! WOOO! Happy ending!

So, not at all what I was expecting, but quite enjoyable. Highlights were the fishing fleet brawl, the scathing social-commentary dialog between the two women, a sequence showing the entire process from netting the salmon through the various processing to the canning and crating, and seeing all the main actors actually working and getting fishy in the cannery. Actor Louis Wolheim any time he's on screen. He steals the show! He gets the hilarious manicurist scene, and I love when he physically restrains JMC (no easy feat) and gives him a piece of his mind. And, of course, there's JMC himself, so darned cute when he's angry and sad. Or happy. Or dancing. Or tired. Or punching out the opposition....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bend of the River (1952)

And that wraps up my Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Western viewings. I saved this film for last because it was the only one I'd seen before, when I was young. I'd completely forgotten Rock Hudson was in it, but, well, he had almost no part and should have been cut out anyway. Not that I have anything against him, it's just the plot would have been tighter without him. He didn't add anything other than an extra gun. Besides, he's just so vanilla next to Arthur Kennedy and James Stewart.

Ahhh, Arthur Kennedy. This was the first movie I ever saw him in, and I've liked him ever since. It was kind of funny, because watching it now, I realize the first thing that attracted me to him -- was his horse. Horses were big in my family, well with my mom, anyway. My dad, not so much. She'd always owned and ridden horses, was always talking and watching horses. We watched Westerns as much to see the horses as the shoot-outs and barroom brawls. And in Bend of the River, Mr. Kennedy is riding a buckskin, and that was always my favorite coloring. Hee. But he's fabulous in this, just like in Man From Laramie. All the right shades of charming, brave, shifty, determined, and desperate.

I think it's fascinating how similar his character and Jimmy Stewart really are, how it could easily have been Jimmy Stewart who betrayed Arthur Kennedy instead. They're both skirting the edges of their pasts and future, looking for a new life. Kennedy's just a little greedier, where Stewart wants redemption. Their scenes together are the best in the film and make me grin grin grin. I love the way they each realize who the other is in the beginning, how it's mostly conveyed in looks, not words, because they both have a lot to hide, and they respect each other enough not to give each other away to the settlers. Gotta dig that. I love their Oriole/Indian talk. I love how quick Kennedy is to defend Stewart (a lot quicker than the reverse) multiple times. I love Kennedy's horse. :-D (Hah! Just re-read my review of Man from Laramie, and apparently, he's also riding a buckskin in that movie. That I also had to comment on.)

Julie Adams is the love interest in this, and I couldn't help but be cross with her. This isn't her fault so much as her character's. I seem to have encountered a rash of fickle Julie Adams characters lately, and I'm still mad at her for messing with Joel McCrea's heart in The Gunfight at Dodge City. I think she's just as cold and fickle here. I mean, she's clearly attracted to Arthur Kennedy the moment he appears. She spends months with him in Portland, and then she condemns him completely in less than a minute flat when he turns on Jimmy Stewart. Now, honey, don't you even want to hear his side of it? Stand by your man just a little? Particularly after knowing he's a gambler and already deciding to stay in Portland with him and ignore your family? Sheesh! I would have. At least let him 'splain things. Maybe there was more to his plan, maybe he had grander ideas. But nooooo. She tells him instantly to get lost. Hmph. Silly fickle woman.

But really, I loved the movie very much. And the Mann/Stewart collaborations really are a great series of Westerns. I'd personally rank them as follows:

1. The Naked Spur
2. Bend of the River
3. The Man from Laramie
4. The Far Country
5. Winchester 73

Probably an obvious order for anyone who knows me, me being the plot-girl I am: The Naked Spur is the only one with a really tight story. The others are a little too sprawly, a little too segmented into different sections. And, of course, Naked Spur has Ralph Meeker. And as much as I love Arthur Kennedy, I love Meeker a lot more, even if he doesn't ride a buckskin. LOL!

Friday, December 19, 2008

20, er.... 10 favorite actresses

This meme comes from Asleep in New York. This was quite difficult for me as, I admit, I don't pay all that much attention to the women in movies usually. Shame on me! If you asked me who my all-time favorite actress is... er, I don't think I could honestly name a true genuine favorite. But I like many actresses for a variety of reasons. So, I'm just picking 10, because after the first ten, it gets into the impersonal generic "oh, I like that actress cuz she's gorgeous and talented" realm, but I don't actually know her work that well. So these ten are ones I have always had special affection for, whose performances haven't diminished over time, or that I still admire (or secretly want to be), or that really did make me pay attention when the men weren't around.

This list is alphabetical by first name (just cuz I needed some order).

1. Anne Baxter

I fell in love with her when I was a kid and first saw her as Nefretiri in Ten Commandments. Not only was she beautiful, but she has that wonderful low, sultry voice. I have a radio show of Where the Sidewalk Ends with her and Dana Andrews, and it really got me musing what she would have been like in the movie instead of Gene Tierney. I like Gene, I really do, she's just so fragile and broken (even when she's playing strong or scheming, she's still incredibly vulnerable), and I can't relate to her the way I can to Anne Baxter. I've actually sought out a few of her movies and liked her in every one. I'm very tempted to name Anne Baxter as my favorite actress.

2. Barbara Stanwyck

She's a newer addition, but as she starred with just about every single classic actor I love (lucky woman!), as well as in Big Valley, I've had tons and tons of screen time with her lately and have really gotten to love her. She can play any kind of character and make you believe in her.

3. Betty Grable

I simply think she's wonderful. I've liked her in everything I've seen her in, and I actually went hunting for more of her movies just because she's so fun and seems so honestly nice.

4. Dorothy Lamour

Mostly a childhood favorite, from watching all those Road pictures over and over and over... Another one with a sultry voice too... and she goes right along with my love of South Seas romance movies.

6. Grace Kelly

I often think of her first when I'm asked about actresses, but that's mostly from how much I love her in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. I don't particularly like her in High Noon or High Society. Even still, I can't think of any other woman who wears her clothes quite as well or simply looks quite that elegant.

7. Janice Rule

Caught her first in old tv shows, but have since seen her in quite a few movies, enough that I have gone looking for more of her work. There's a simple directness and natural beauty to her that I just really like.

8. Jeanette MacDonald

My dad loved old musicals, so I grew up on a lot of Jeanette MacDonald. I love her particularly in San Francisco, but she gets to sing Tosca in Rose Marie (and have Jimmy Stewart for a brother!), and that, plus her voice, put her ahead of most other musical stars for me.

9. Mary Ure

I've only seen her in two movies (both with Richard Burton, interestingly!), but one of those was one of the base founding movies of my life: Where Eagles Dare. She was the first female action hero I idolized. I always wanted to be a blonde because of her. Heck, I wanted to be just like her in that movie. I mean she's right in there doing everything the guys are, and Richard Burton trusts her to watch prisoners and shoot down bad guys while he's vulnerable. I don't know about favorite actress, but Mary Elison in Where Eagles Dare is still my all-time favorite female character.

5. Merle Oberon

She's the brunette version of Grace Kelly for me. Stunningly elegant, always beautiful even when she's dressed down. And I adore her in Night Song.

10. Vitina Marcus

Ha! Okay, I know almost nobody's heard of her (I assume), but when I was little, she seemed to be in everything the family watched. The Lost World, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Time Tunnel, etc. She was usually playing the exotic and beautiful native girl, and I sooooooo wanted to be her. :-D

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Well, well. I hate when I overlook the obvious

So, there's this cool meme going around regarding naming your 20 favorite actresses, and, while I was contemplating who I'd put on that list, I let my thoughts drift to my favorite actors instead. Naturally! And you know, I realized something. I realized who my all-time favorite actor actually is.

It's William Holden.

Which surprised me a little, because I've tended to try to dismiss him, maybe because he has been such a constant figure in my life. But he's so clearly at the top over everyone else when I just stop and think about it. He's the only actor I've consistently and faithfully loved since childhood, ever since my first viewing of The Horse Soldiers. I like him at every age. He's never fallen out of favor, never angered me or embarrassed me with a performance, never been anything but my favorite for thirty or so years (and I most definitely cannot say all of those things about any other actor I like). And if anything, he gets better and better with each movie I see. Dana Andrews and everybody else on my list are relative newcomers, and as much as I adore them, and as special a spot as they have in my heart, they lack that solidity of lasting all those years and years. It was always William Holden's picture on my wall, and his book of complete films I read over and over out of all my movie books. And no matter who catches my eye, no matter whose movies I seek out, it's William Holden I always come back to. The one by whom I subconsciously measure everyone else. Because he plays the character-types I love best. Because he's handsome and bitter and sarcastic and vulnerable and has the best grin and a wonderful voice and he's a damned fine actor.

William Holden in The Horse Soldiers

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Route 66, second season

So, went Christmas shopping yesterday and, of course, ended up with one thing for myself. That's the second season of Route 66 (and yay for Roxbury Entertainment not even attempting to muck about with this season's format). I fell thoroughly in love with the first season. This was a show where every time I'd get a disc from netflix, I'd think, okay, four episodes, let's do one each night. And I never, ever could. Once the dvd went in, I simply could not turn it off. It didn't matter if I didn't start watching until 10 pm, I'd stay up however long it took to watch all four episodes. It was that good. Many eps wrung me out emotionally. This show deals with a lot of unpleasant things, makes you think, makes you care about strangers you just met. The stories, the snappy, snazzy dialogue, the great real locales, the two leads, the guest stars, the music.... This show does everything right.
So sure enough, I put in the first disc of Season 2 last night... and I didn't stop watching until I'd seen all four eps. I just can't (nor want to) turn this show off! The last ep on the disc surprised me for a 1960 show. Naive Tod wants to help a heroin addict get through withdrawal enough to go into a drug rehab program and gets his eyes opened. Not-so-naive Buz has a spot-on raging rant that just blew me away. I didn't expect that kind of honesty and openness about drug abuse. Though it shouldn't surprise me, because this show dives in headfirst everywhere else.

I cannot wait to watch the rest of the season.

Favorite line of dialogue last night, from "Goodnight Sweet Blues," said by the wonderful, wonderful Ethel Waters: "Time has nothing to do with who you love."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bird of Paradise (1932)

This movie reminded me of something I'd almost forgotten: how much of a complete sucker I am for a romantic South Seas Island story. It reminded me that my favorite, most-read part of "Mutiny on the Bounty" is not actually the mutiny or even anything having to do with Fletcher Christian, but rather the swimming contest between Tehani and Byam. Yeah, seriously -- I mostly read Mutiny on the Bounty for everything that happened on the islands. And when I watch South Pacific, it's really to get to the parts with Lt. Cable and Liat on the island. What can I say? I really am a complete sucker for a romantic South Seas Island story.

So, did I get what I wanted from Bird of Paradise?

Romance? Check! Natives enthusiastically greeting boat and subsequent wild party? Check! Shark attack? Check! Boy gets, then loses girl, check! Unexpected brutal violence, check! Lots of boats and swimming, Joel McCrea tied up not once, but twice, lots of beautiful scenery, coconuts, everyone (including our handsome hero) scantily clad... yeah. All of that. Oh, and did I mention the romance?

Bonuses: 1) The volcano. 2) Snappy dialog, particularly among the ship passengers/crew. 3) And the absolutely wonderful native lady that Joel McCrea bribes with a record player. I loved her!

So, yeah, this version of Bird of Paradise was a lot of fun for me. It gave me everything I want out of a palm tree flick, and quite a bit more. Sailor falls for native girl, only she's off limits (of course) being a princess. She falls for him too, so her dad hurriedly shoves her into marriage with a prince on another island. Only Joel McCrea follows, steals her right out of the middle of the wedding ceremony (now that takes guts!). Off they run to their own little tropical island, where he builds a house and she shows him what they can eat and he teaches her English, and life is oh-so-sighingly indolent and lovely. Then the volcano starts erupting, and everything goes south from there.

I think it's kind of ironic how good the special effects were back in the 30's (Wizard of Oz's tornado still looks better than any CGI crap they do nowadays. Ditto, The Hurricane's typhoon) compared to even just a decade later. This movie gets a lovely lava flow with real footage, and the volcano itself looks pretty good in all but a couple shots.

The only very minor disappointment was that I was expecting an ending more like the Debra Paget remake's ending, and this one sort of faded to black before it quite got there. This movie was far superior in every other aspect, I thought (though it's been ages since I've seen the remake, so that might be an unfair comment).