Archive for February, 2021|Monthly archive page

Beyond Beauty

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2021 at 3:36 am

There is beauty, and then there is BEAUTY, of the type so distinctively unique, unexpected and refulgent, that transcends the mere flawlessly pretty, taking the concept of comeliness into another stratosphere of legend, fable, the surreal, and the sublime.

When you think about it, few women have ever really possessed it and one who did, Ava Gardner, came as near as anyone ever did, trying to describe it, in a quote I pray is not apocryphal, when she once observed, “Elizabeth [Taylor] is pretty. I am beautiful.”

Of course, there will be an army of dissenters who will want to argue that point. In terms of who really had that ineffable, supernatural kind of beauty beyond beauty, I don’ think anyone would disagree with me about Garbo, Dolores del Rio, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh, Carole Lombard, Valerie Hobson, both Hepburns, Katharine and Audrey, Lena Horne, Ann Harding, Sophia Loren, Loretta Young, Anita Louise and Fredi Washington. Joan Crawford -particularly between 1930 and 1946. Marlene Dietrich, the Aga of Artifice, especially as bedizened by Josef von Sternberg in their series of films, in which no woman was ever more glorified onscreen. In more recent years, one could include Lupita Nyongo, Dominique Sanda, Angelina Jolie, Cicely Tyson, Diahanne Abbot, Lonette McKee, as well as certain supreme supermodels like Iman, Christy Turlington, Yasmeen Ghauri, Rene Russo, Katoucha, Sayoko Yamaguchi and Pat Cleveland, who had a progenitor, the 1930s mannequin, Toto Koopman, also mixed race and utterly divine.

And then there was the absolutely exquisite Merle Oberon, born today, who, in three films in 1934-35, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Private Life of Don Juan and Folies Bergere, especially, swept all the other beauties aside with her hypnotic Eurasian enchantment. This was all just before Hollywood had done a complete renovation on her, downplaying the exotic for -it was thought – the more universal appeal of a typical – if faux – English rose.

with Oliver Messel during The Private Life of Don Juan, one of the most brilliantly costumed films in all cinema, wearing one of his opulent Goya-inspire
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as Marianne St. Just in The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934, gowned by Oliver Messel

by Oliver Messel, her brilliant costume designer for The Scarlet Pimpernel 1934

Moanin’ Low

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2021 at 12:42 am

Don’t you love torch songs, those melodic and messy mea culpas, all about being besotted – and usually dumped – by some bastard of a bad boy?

From Helen Morgan, who was one of the first and most famous popularizers of the genre with her Showboat hits Bill and Can’t Help Lovin Dat Man through Judy Garland’s The Man that Got Away to Barbra Streisand singing My Man at the end of Funny Girl, resulting in an Oscar, this genre has always been a reliable cri de coeur for the singularly bereft, as well as a surefire comforting emotional wallow for the romantic masochist in all of us.

Here is one of my favorites, by E.Y. Harburg and Jay Gorney, father of Karen Lynn who starred in Saturday Night Fever. It is sung – and FELT – by a wonderfully and reliably distraught Morgan, who makes even Garland’s similarly tousled-hair angst seem a picnic by comparison, in the big 1930 revue musical, Paramount on Parade, made at the very dawn of the talkies.

What’s your favorite torch song? Stormy Weather? One for My Baby? Moanin’ Low? Maybe This Time? Time Heals Everything? If He Walked Into My Life? As Long as He Needs Me?

Happy Birthday, Merle Oberon

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2021 at 11:38 pm

this is, I feel, the greatest portrait ever painted of any movie star

by Gerald Brockhurst 1936

Makeup for Men, and Everybody/thing, Who/Whatever

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2021 at 6:06 pm

The Most Beautiful Hair Act of Them All

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2021 at 3:46 am

happy birthday Rene Russo! If you came up in the 1970s her name would probably rank high in any objective assessment of the most beautiful woman in the world, with her sumptuous, perfect features and bone structure that could be both the definition of classical patrician, fresh and dewy country lass and diabolically sexy, a face, as I used to say, you could fall into.

Surmounting that spellbinding visage was an endless wealth of thick naturally curly hair which easily fell into a mane of pre-Raphaelite ringlets Rossetti would have killed to paint, and that was how she was wearing it the night we met and danced at the Mudd Club. Quite a night it was too, as I was part of genius makeup man Way Bandy’s entourage – they’d picked me up at a one-woman Tallulah Bankhead show by her protégée Eugenia Rawls ( original Alexandra to her Regina Giddens in The Little Foxes), which I had attended earlier and solo, that typically hectic Saturday night. Rene, dressed with devastating simplicity in a man’s white cotton button-down and tight jeans, we encountered at our first stop after the show, at Max’s Kansas City, and it was she who went out onto Park Avenue and hitched us all a ride from a goddess-gobsmacked guy driving a van, downtown to the Mudd. What I distinctly recall was how excited she was to learn that Linda Ronstadt was already inside, with her date Governor Jerry Brown. As soon as that van stopped, she FLEW into the club. She rejoined us once we were all on the dance floor and I remember that was the first time I’d ever heard Debbie Harry-Blondie’s “Rip Her to Shreds,”as she shimmied hypnotically with that cascade of curls and truly translucent skin. There that night, also, was my future friend, hair wizard extraordinaire, Harry King, who, in coalition with Way beating face and Francesco Scavullo behind the lens, produced the impossibly flawless and timeless iconography which made Rene THE print model of the day, and caused the also flawless baby Brooke Shields to say she wanted to be her.

The shots below all show off the perfection created by that trifecta of great artists out of the most unimaginably gorgeous hunk of human clay.

Russo’s early years were anything but a picnic, however, for like many eventual world class beauties, she suffered as a kid. Her father walked out on her and her mother when she was two, and, diagnosed with scoliosis in junior high school she had to wear a full torso brace. This brought forth intense bullying, exacerbated by her height, for which she was called The Jolly Green Giant. It got so bad that she dropped out of school in her sophomore year.

Russo experienced a rough upbringing that forced her to mature at a young age. Born in Burbank, CA on February 17th, 1954, her father Nino Russo abandoned the family when she was just two years old leaving her mother to raise her and her sister Toni on her own. Russo was diagnosed with scoliosis in junior high school, and had to wear a full-torso brace every day, which led to insults and mockery from her peers. They teased her for her height as well and called her by the nickname “Jolly Green Giant.” The bullying became so severe that she struggled to maintain good grades and ended up dropping out of high school her sophomore year.

She worked part time jobs from an early age, supporting her struggling Mom and younger sister, as a cashier a Disneyland and sometimes without pay, at movie theaters and restaurants, as a hostess, so she could see movies for free and eat. At 17, everything changed when she was at a Rolling Stones concert where she was spotted by ICM agency scout John Crosby, and that encounter led to a contract with Ford models.

Travolta and De Palma’s Best

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2021 at 2:42 am

happy birthday John Travolta! Despite the international sensation you became with your quite spectacular creation of Tony Maneri in Saturday Night Fever, Blow Out remains your greatest achievement and ,quite possibly, Brian De Palma’s best film as well. A spectacularly entertaining and well made thriller to which you and Nancy Allen brought a real romantic and devastatingly tragic dimension. In short, what the movies should always be about.

The Bespoke Red-Baiter

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2021 at 9:53 pm

It’s his birthday today and although he took part in some of Hollywood’s most memorable films, but, because Adolphe Menjou was a notorious right wing Commie baiter and huge asshole during the McCarthy era, I am not wishing him a happy one.

the best thing this “horror”, as both George Cukor and Katharine Hepburn (who made three films with him) called him, ever did was marry the talented, aristocratic actress, Veree Teasdale, and stayed with her until his death. He was a noted clothes horse – Bob Hope once jokingly referred to himself as “the Adolphe Menjou of Toluca Lake” – but he always seemed too oily to be enviable. He was named Best Dressed Man in America nine times – never even knew there was such a title -and called his memoir It took nine Tailors.

Born in Pittsburgh, in 1890, he went to Cornell and got an engineering degree but the call of showbiz was too strong. He played vaudeville and made his silent film debut in 1916, and, afterwards, was a near inextricable part of movie history, appearing in such noteworthy films as The heik, Three Musketeers, A Wonan of Paris directed by Chaplin in which his debonair bespoke persona became defined, Morocco, The Front Page (replacing Louis Wolheim as Walter Burns when that actor died), A Farewell to Arms with Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes, Morning Glory, Convention city (dirtiest movie Warner ever made and no one seems to know where it is now), Little Miss Marker, The Milky Way, Golddiggers of 1935 ( fitfully amusing as a mad Russian choreographer), 100 men and a girl, in the same year of 1937 Stage Door and A star is born, Golden Boy, Father takes a wife, You were never lovelier, Roxie Hart, The Hucksters, of the union (keeping socially distant from Katharine hepburn whom he called a pinko), Kazan’s man on a rightrope, kubrick’s Paths of Glory, and his final film Pollyanna.

He died of hepatitis in Beverly Hills in 1963, age 73.

Menjou’s politics from Wiki:

Menjou was a staunch Republican who equated the Democratic Partywith socialism. He supported the Hoover administration‘s policies during the Great Depression. Menjou told a friend that he feared that if a Democrat won the White House, they “would raise taxes [and] destroy the value of the dollar,” depriving Menjou of a good portion of his wealth. He took precautions against this threat: “I’ve got gold stashed in safety deposit boxes all over town… They’ll never get an ounce from me.” In the 1944 presidential election, he joined other celebrity Republicans at a rally in the Los Angeles Coliseum, organized by studio executive David O. Selznick, to support the DeweyBrickerticket and Governor Earl Warren of California, who would be Dewey’s running mate in 1948. The gathering drew 93,000, with Cecil B. DeMille as the master of ceremonies and short speeches by Hedda Hopper and Walt Disney. Despite the rally’s large turnout, most Hollywood celebrities who took public positions supported the RooseveltTrumanticket.In 1947, Menjou cooperated with the House Committee on Un-American Activitiessaying that Hollywood“is one of the main centers of Communist activity in America”. He added: “it is the desire and wish of the masters of Moscow to use this medium for their purposes” which is “the overthrow of the American government”. Menjou was a leading member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a group formed to oppose communist influence in Hollywood, whose other members included John WayneBarbara Stanwyck (with whom Menjou costarred in Forbidden in 1932 and Golden Boy in 1939) and her husband, actor Robert Taylor.Because of his political leanings, Menjou came into conflict with actress Katharine Hepburn, with whom he appeared in Morning GloryStage Door, and State of the Union (also starring Spencer Tracy). Hepburn was strongly opposed to the HUAC hearings, and their clashes were reportedly instant and mutually cutting. During a government deposition, Menjou said, “Scratch a do-gooder, like Hepburn, and they’ll yell, ‘Pravda’.” To this, Hepburn called Menjou “wisecracking, witty—a flag-waving super-patriot who invested his American dollars in Canadian bonds and had a thing about Communists.” In his book Kate, Hepburn biographer William Mann said that during the filming of State of the Union, she and Menjou spoke to each other only while acting.


In Uncategorized on February 18, 2021 at 9:21 pm

you had one of the longest and most distinguished character actor runs in movie history – Jerry Lewis adored using you- culminating in your endearing final stage appearance on Broadway, as the pianist in The Full Monty, which was revived at Papermill playhouse in New Jersey with no less than Elaine Stritch doing your role.

I especially loved you as Phoebe Dinsmore, the grandiose voice teacher in Singin in the Rain, stoically dealing with Jean Hagen’s legendary genius mania as the unspeakable Lina Lamont.


In Uncategorized on February 18, 2021 at 2:02 am

I wish I had known about this unaired Judy clip from her legenday TV show on Superbowl Sunday, to spirit me through the dreary game and The Weeknd’s bizarre, off-putting and ultimately depressing “what the hell was that?” performance.