Jeanne Eagels was robbed. Why the stage’s most recognized Sadie Thompson didn’t appear in the film (Classic Movie History Blogathon)

In 1922, a play opened in Philadelphia that underwhelmed the population so much that it closed within weeks. Producer and promoter Sam H. Harris, his client Jeanne Eagels, and the rest of the cast and crew had to decide whether they would fold it up and lick their wounds or try another tack with it. Rain was not the success they had hoped it would be. Jeanne vociferously defended Sadie Thompson, the main character, whom she’d fallen in love with. She refused to let the show die. So with a little reworking, they reopened at the Maxine Elliott Theatre in Manhattan. And American theater has never been the same since. Jeanne_Eagels_in_Disraeli

A young and beautiful Jeanne Eagels.

Sadie Thompson is a woman of dubious morals, on the run from illegal activities in San Francisco. She happens to be on a ship that docks in Pago Pago, Samoa in the South Seas. Also included in this equation are Trader Horn, who manages the general store with his native wife, a battalion of Marines headed for Subic Bay in the Philippines, and a holier-than-thou priest and his wife (the Reverend and Mrs. Davidson). 5658276056_1330391b35_z

Jeanne as Sadie with the Marines

“I don’t want to be a prostitute,” Jeanne told Sam Harris. “The play doesn’t call me one. I can’t feel myself a prostitute. I don’t want to be cheap, sordid and vulgar.” When Harris told her that she wasn’t a prostitute– that she was a common streetwalker, he told her that she had no morals, but no malice either. “All right, I’ll be a common harlot then, but not a cheap one.” What she did do was to make the part her own. She shopped carefully for the look she wanted, scouring New York shops for the perfect type of dress and hat and shoes. According to biographer Edward Doherty, “she found the shoes at a dingy East Side bargain counter, after weeks of searching for them. She paid $2.00. They were on sale.” Supposedly. she ordered a dozen more pairs just like them. The famous hat with the sad droopy plume she found at a shop in the Bronx. And a secondhand store in The Bowery was the source for her white lace coat with peach sateen lining. She found the bedraggled parasol at a fire sale, and the multitude of bangles from a five and ten cent store. From her first sashay onstage, she took over the character, getting inside her head and exploring her personality and motivations. “Sadie wouldn’t do that,” she was known to say. And she defended her fiercely. When someone once asked her if she’d like to visit the Barbary Coast, “where Sadie was from,” Jeanne lost it. “How do YOU know she was ever there?” she said crossly. Nothing in the play indicated it. She wanted to get the most out of life, that was all. “Does anybody actually KNOW Sadie is a harlot?” No one could tell her. Two years after her lover, Thomas Chadbourne, deserted her and married Mrs. Chadbourne, the couple attended the opening night of Rain. According to Doherty, she ignored Chadbourne until the second act, where she turned all her vitriol at Reverend Davidson. But she was not speaking to Davidson, she was accusing Chadbourne. That last word of her tantrum, “sonofabitch,” was covered in fury.

jeanneinRain  Jeanne in costume as Sadie

Her persona became ingrained in the American consciousness. In All About Eve, George Sanders mentioned Jeanne as one of the greats he’d worked with over twenty years after her death.

So, in 1927 when Hollywood inevitably decided to film its own version of Rain, Jeanne would have been the obvious choice for the part. Why then, was Gloria Swanson selected instead?

In a word, clout.

Gloria Swanson was one of the biggest female stars at the time, all due to her work with director Cecil B. DeMille on pictures like Male and Female, The Affairs of Anatole, and Why Change Your Wife. She had recently married an impoverished French nobleman named Henri de la Falaise de la Coudray. She was a marquise.

Obstacle #1 – Rain was on the Motion Picture Production Code’s list of theatrical works that could not be filmed, due to Sadie’s line of work.

CodeHowever, cagey Gloria Swanson worked with some writers to finagle important details (Sadie’s profession became fuzzier, and the reverend became a reformer). And most importantly, they changed the movie’s name to Sadie Thompson so that it wasn’t associated with the scandalous Broadway play of the same name. Because of her wealth and pull in Hollywood, Swanson pulled a fast one on the censors.

Obstacle #2 – Jeanne’s dislike of films.

At the time, the gulf between theater people and “movies” was much wider. Although stage plays did provide fodder for the newer medium, for years theater people had looked down on film people as upstarts. No one wanted to actually admit they made flickers. Until the money began rolling in, and in, and in… and then the talkies arrived. Directors needed trained stage voices. That was when things really changed.

Jeanne had done her time in films in the early part of her career, working for the independent Thanhouser, which was based in New Rochelle, New York. During 1916 and 1917, she made several films, including The World and the Woman, The Fires of Youth, and Under False Colors.

She loved California– loved the sun and the warmth and the people. It was the industry she couldn’t stand. As Doherty says, “Movies, she believed, were made by stupid people, of stupid people, and for stupid people.” And she didn’t feel like films had progressed much past where they’d been a decade earlier when she’d been in them to pay the bills.

When Rain‘s run was complete, Jeanne and her husband, Ted Coy, had traveled to California, and the next thing anyone knew, she was making Man, Woman, and Sin with John Gilbert. She’d been convinced to join by Monta Bell, the director, but supposedly she hated everyone on the lot. Except Bell and Gilbert.


Jeanne and John Gilbert, with whom it was rumored she had an affair

It was the routine she hated– having to get there so early, getting made up, and then waiting around– sometimes for hours, sometimes for days– for technical issues to get ironed out. The lights, the cameras, the director, the editing…she had no patience for it. Finally, she walked off set. For three days.

Obstacle #3 – Jeanne herself.

The furor over Her Cardboard Lover cemented Jeanne’s reputation as difficult and unstable. Erratic behavior, missed performances, and rumors of drunken binges followed the show. Due to the fallout, Jeanne was fined two weeks’ pay and banned from the live stage for eighteen months by Actors Equity. She was casual about the whole affair, and did a stint on vaudeville in the meantime. She knew it would pay more than legitimate theater, and movies would pay even more than that.

But her descent had begun. Alcoholism slowly and surely began to claim her. Rumors of drug abuse surfaced after her death as her behavior became more and more unstable. Supposedly, she had a broken heart when Swanson played Sadie, but Swanson had done the legwork to earn the part for herself. And Jeanne couldn’t be bothered to work in Hollywood voluntarily. Plus, in addition to the alcohol, she had a myriad of health problems with sinuses etc that inhibited her work at times.


Jeanne as the murderous Leslie Crosbie in The Letter

Only after her suspension did Jeanne find Hollywood a legitimate enough source of income to complete the two films we know her for today. The first was the brilliant W. Somerset Maugham work The Letter, where she played the murderous adultress Leslie Crosbie, and the second was Jealousy. Since both are talkies, we can fully get a sense of her acting skill and ability to full inhabit a character.


 It’s a true loss that we never got to enjoy Jeanne on film playing the role she was known for, but Swanson comported herself admirably in the role. If only Jeanne had had the foresight to ensure that her Rain legacy included film as well as live theater.

This has been my entry in the Classic Movie History Blogathon, hosted by Silver Screenings. Check out these other great entries! A wealth of amazing film history lore. Check it out, y’all! I’ll be reading for days.

THE SILENT ERA (1880-1929)

1880-1895: Eadweard Muybridge and the Black Maria: The birth of the movies

Silent-ology Early History of Film
The Movie Rat The Muybridge Experiment

1896-1900: From novelty to art: The movies increase in popularity

Silent Volume The Best Pre-Feature Movies
Christy’s Inkwells How I Learned to Love Silent Movies

1901-1907: The first hits: Melies, Edison and the blockbuster

Big V Riot Squad Life of an American Director: Edwin S Porter in 1903

1908-1913: Nickelodeon! The movies in the mainstream

365 Days 365 Classics India’s Silent Era Movies
Silver Screenings Early Trick Photography The Thieving Hand (1908)
Now Voyaging The early career of Lois Weber

1914-1918: The War and the feature film: The move away from shorts

Now Voyaging Movie audience perceptions of the war
Century Film Project Regeneration (1915)
Once Upon a Screen Birth of Fox Studio – a centennial tribute
Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy Tom Sawyer, the 1917 Film
The Cinematic Packrat A Brief History of MGM
Sir Arthur Conan Doy’s Lost World William Selig’s Lost World

1919-1923: Hollywood triumphs: Post-war dominance

A Small Press Life Anita Loos: Females in Early Hollywood
Movies, Silently Home Theatres of the Silent Era James Abbe: Capturing the silent screen

1924-1927: The high art of pantomime: The silent film reaches artistic heights

Sepia Stories Jeanne Eagels was Robbed. Why the stage’s most recognized Sadie Thompson didn’t appear in the film.
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood John Barrymore in Don Juan & the introduction to Vitaphone

1928-1929: The last of the silents: The talkie revolution

film, fashion & frivolity Garbo’s Last Silents
Critica Retro 1928 Around the World
CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch The Crowd (1928)

THE GOLDEN AGE (1930-1952)

1930-1931: All Singing! All Dancing! All Talking! The end of the sound transition.

A Person in the Dark Early Musicals
Classic Reel Girl Early portrayal of taxi dancers: Ten Cents a Dance (1931) and Two Seconds (1932)
Cinephilia Lubitsch Films: 1930-1943
Silver Screen Modes How Fashions Sold the Movies: 1930-1940
regularpop Loretta Young’s career

1932-1934: Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? The wild world of pre-Code.

Carole & Co. Of Carole and Pre-Code
Girls Do Film Barbara Stanwyck’s Pre-Code Bad Girls
The Stop Button Son of Kong
Wolffian Classic Movies Digest Bette Davis, dame of the screen
stevielounicks Dinner at Eight
In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood Ethel Barrymore’s transition from stage to screen
Second Sight Cinema Development of newsreels, real life influencing Hollywood and vice versa, and presidential politics and policy in 1932-’33.
Outspoken & Freckled Feminism in the Pre-Code Era
CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch Heat Lightning (1934)
stars and letters Correspondence from Joseph Breen from 1934 and 1935 regarding the Production Code

1935-1938: Let’s misbeha— I mean, lovely day, isn’t it? The Code enforced and the rise of Technicolor.

Nitrate Glow Disney’s Early Features
Silver Scenes 1936-A Grand Year in Film
CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch (Guest Post) The Flame Within

1939: The Big Year. Selections from the biggest year in classic cinema.

Movie Movie Blog Blog The Flying Deuces (Laurel and Hardy)
Smitten Kitten Vintage 1939: The Big Year (Selections from the biggest year in classic cinema)
MovieFanFare The Worst of 1939

1940-1945: We’ll murdelize that paper hanger! Wartime Cinema.

The Vintage Cameo Wartime Musicals
Speakeasy 1943 at RKO
The Motion Pictures For Me and My Gal
Way too damn lazy to write a blog Christmas in Connecticut
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies What the Stars Did to Help Win the War
Shadows and Satin Barbara Stanwyck in Film Noir

1946-1949: Homecoming

B Noir Detour Wartime Cinema: Gentleman’s Agree’t, Crossfire, A Double Life
Queerly Different The Rise and Fall of the Biblical Epic Part 1
Pure Golden Classics Gilda (1946)
regularpop Lizabeth Scott’s career

1950-1952: Realism and the Method: New directions

Sister Celluloid Stage Fright: Hitchcock Goes Home
Old Hollywood Films Hollywood Expose Pictures (Sunset Blvd, Bad the Beautiful)
Hitchcock’s World Destination Moon (1950)
Caftan Woman Adult Westerns
Criterion Blues The Collapse of the Studio System Parts 1,2,3


1953-1957: Rebels with and without causes: The birth of cool

Back to Golden Days Juvenile Deliquency: The Wild One, Blackboard Jungle, Rebel Without a Cause
Movies Silently After the Silents: A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Movie Mania Madness It’s Always Fair Weather – The Musical Gets Cynical
Voyages Extraordinaires Scientific Romances in the Atomic Age
Silver Scenes 3-D Films of the 1950s
Culural Civilian Revisiting It Should Happen to You (1954) in a Reality-TV World
Queerly Different The Rise and Fall of the Biblical Epic Part 2
Let’s Go to the Movies Love as portrayed in key films released during this time period
Totally Filmi The Apu Trilogy
Silver Screenings 3D Film Shorts

1958-1962: A little song, a little dance, a lot of people with no pants: Musicals, biblical epics and the shimmy-shimmy shakes.

A Shroud of Thoughts British New Wave
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You Single Roommates in the City: The Best of Everything (1959)
Queerly Different The Rise and Fall of the Biblical Epic Part 3
Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood The Widescreen Splendor of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Paula’s Cinema Club Roger Corman (guest post by Jack Deth)

1963-1967: Mod’s the word: And then things started to swing

The Last Drive In The Bold & The Beautiful Strong Women of 1960s Film
The Wonderful World of Cinema 1967: An Important Turning Point in Films
Reel and Rock The Girl-Getters aka The System (1964)
That Other Critic Batman (1966)
Classic Becky’s Brain Food 3 Big Films 1969: Midnight Cowboy, Sterile Cuckoo, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?
No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen 1966: The Year dubbed as Nineteen Sexty Sex
The Joy & Agony of Movies Movies: 1963-67 (Topic TBA)

1968-1972: Hays is dead: The end of the Code

Portraits by Jenni Airport (1970)
The Joy and Agony of Movies Films about politics and civil unrest
Girls Do Film The American Road Movie (Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, Badlands)
Moon in Gemini Paranoia in Movies
Le Mot du Cinephiliaque The year 1968 in France’s Cinema

1972-1975: The Godfather and Jaws: Auteur films and the modern blockbuster

Once Upon a Screen Mel Brooks’ Take on Classic Movie Genres
Crimson Kimono The Surveillance Sleuth of “The Conversation”
The Joy & Agony of Movies Movies: 1972-75 (Topic TBA)

Clara Bow Getting Ready for Dinner “with the boss” scene from It – And…Scene! Blogathon

It poster

In 1926, Clara Bow was already becoming a solid commodity in motion pictures. The irrepressible redhead had showed her range in a few dramas early on, but after her roles as naughty but nice Cynthia in The Plastic Age or the gold-digging manicurist Alvira in Mantrap, she had found her niche. She was the sexy, devil-may-care flapper who was the envy of every woman and the dream girl of every man.

When the writer Elinor Glyn (infamous for penning a tryst on a tiger-skin rug in Three Weeks) came to Hollywood, and Clara was selected as the lead for It, her career would never be the same.


The Divine Ms. Glyn

Upon meeting Clara for the first time, Glyn supposedly took Clara’s face in her hands and said, “You are my muse!” And crazy as it sounds, maybe she was. But it also may have been the other way around.

After It, Clara, who’d previously been billed as the Brooklyn Bonfire,  became The It Girl. And the 1920s ignited.

Audiences probably responded so positively because, other than the fun story and appealing cast, Clara was playing herself– salt of the earth, poor Brooklyn girl Betty Lou Spence. Not only that, but she was helping out her friend and co-worker, Molly (Priscilla Bonner) after the birth of Molly’s baby. She’s letting them stay with her until Molly can go back to work.

Now, I’m the least maternal person I know. I honestly don’t like kids– the crying and whining and carrying on sets my teeth on edge. But this baby (who Clara affectionately calls Toodles) is utterly adorable. They don’t make babies any cuter. Blonde, plump, and cherubic, and she bounces up and down, happy to see Clara.


Okay, how freaking CUTE is this kid?

I saw Wings years ago, and I enjoyed it, but this was the movie that cemented my love for Clara. Because she’s the main attraction here. And this scene is why.

You see, Betty Lou has a crush on her department store owner boss, Cyrus Waltham (Antonio Moreno). Actually, he’s the real boss’s son, left in charge while Waltham, Senior is out of town. Betty thinks Cyrus is the cat’s pajamas. “Sweet Santa Claus, give me him!” she says, upon first seeing him.

She tries to get Cyrus’ attention, but is unsuccessful at first. However, Cyrus’s pal Monty (William Austin) is currently reading It, and he’s convinced Betty has it. He invites Clara to dinner, but she says “only if we go to the Ritz.” She overheard Cyrus telling Monty that he was going there.

Excitedly, she heads into her little flat, out of breath, and full of starry-eyed dreams of Cyrus.

Her interaction with Toodles the baby here is completely natural and so perfectly Clara. She makes faces, picks up the little nipper and holds her while Molly warms a bottle. Her eyes and eyebrows are a perfect concertina of expressions that are completely believable and expressive.


“Crap! What can I wear to the Ritz?

Realizing she’ll have to have a better frock than what she has, she decides to perform major surgery on the dress she wore to work, enlisting Molly’s help.


“A stitch in time saves nine, right?”

Ensuring her scissors are nice and sharp, she slices it right through the center of the bodice, then has Molly keep going with it, completely removing the massive lace collar. In her inimitable Clara way, she goofs around, wearing the lace collar as a hat, and wincing in pain when Molly accidentally jabs her with the scissors.

Black Dress

“Hey Molly, a little to the right”

After a look away at Clara’s competition, snooty Adela Van Norman (Jacqueline Gadsden), we’re back just in time for an application of talc (in a black dress? Shah, right…), and the Betty Lou pulls the (presumably now basted) frock back over her head.


“Hand me that Shower to Shower, willya?”

She gives us a glimpse of well turned ankle, then drapes a sheer scarf over her head, adding instant glamour. then, she attaches some flowers to the waist of her dress (they did that back then. In my granny Smith’s wedding picture from 1919, they did the same thing).


“Vera Wang, eat your heart out!

With the addition of the sheer scarf over her already state-of-the-art bob, Betty Lou comes off like a carefree millionairess, and purrs at the camera, lowering those eyelids and convincing anyone and everyone that she really does have It. Monty is already convinced, but Cyrus takes a bit longer to see. After a misunderstanding involving Molly’s baby, things are finally resolved at a yacht party. We see Clara play a ukulele, Clara frolic, and Clara be Clara basically.

Of course she gets the guy (and leaves poor Adela in the dust), but we all knew that would happen anyway. She has It.


“Hey, Cyrus, let me impress you with my mad ukulele skillz”

Wanna watch for yourself? NeilAvon at youtube has kindly posted the scene for your enjoyment: Watch the Dressing for Dinner scene…

And go check out the other And…Scene!” Blogathon entries (read more here at Sister Celluloid’s blog). Good stuff…

The Movie Rat     The repeated scene in Persona

Cinephilia     The scene after Harry’s wedding in It’s a Wonderful Life

Le Mot du Cinephiliaque     The first scene where Jeff snoops on his neighbors in Rear Window

Cary Grant Won’t Eat You     The courtroom scene in I’m No Angel

MovieFanFare     The Maharaja scene from Three Little Pirates

Another Old Movie Blog     Favorite scene in Katie Did It

Vienna’s Classic Hollywood     The “Maida revealed” scene in In Name Only

Old Hollywood Films     The filibuster scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Nitrate Glow     The “descent into the lair” scene in the 1925 version of Phantom of the Opera

Girls Do Film     The “bumpy night” scene in All About Eve

Movies Silently     The fight scene in Tol’able David

Movie Movie Blog Blog     The Looking for Trouble scene in The French Line

Second Sight Cinema     The stoop scene in The More the Merrier

Caftan Woman     Favorite scene in The Searchers

BNoirDetour     The Put the Blame on Mame scene in Gilda

Gina Dalfonzo     The drunk scene in The Philadelphia Story

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies     The “house plan” scene in Blandings Builds His Dream House

Vivien Leigh Legend     The opening scene in Gone With the Wind

Critica Retro     The funhouse scene in The Lady from Shanghai

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest     The shower scene in Psycho

Back to Golden Days     The gin rummy scene in Born Yesterday

Writer’s Rest     The porch scene in It’s a Gift

Wide Screen World     The “Barton gets suspicious” scene in Double Indemnity

The Wonderful World of Cinema     The opening scene in To Be or Not to Be

Back to the Viewer     The grapefruit scene in Public Enemy

Defiant Success     The party scene in Seconds

The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood     The final scene in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Sister Celluloid     The love scene in D.O.A. (yes, there is one!)

Everywhere…there is Evil Under the Sun… (part of the Beach Party Blogathon)

Hey all! Today I’m participating in the Beach Party Blogathon, hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Kowabunga! Here’s my entry…a little gem that is completely underrated.

You know those art deco travel posters that are all the rage? The ones advertising trips to Juan les Pins or Biarritz featuring stylized, tanned 1930s rick folk in belted maillots and swim caps? Imagine one of those come to life. That is Evil Under the Sun.

From its lovely watercolor sketch titles to its breezy Cole Porter soundtrack and its exotic Mallorca locales (standing in for an island off Albania somewhere), this movie has always ranked among my favorites.


Not singing to you yet? Then throw in who I consider to be the best Hercule Poirot of all time– Peter Ustinov, who reprised him in several films in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including Appointment with Death, Death on the Nile, and Thirteen at Dinner. I found Albert Finney monumentally stiff and boring in Murder on the Orient Express, and I never warmed to Suchet. I know– the British TV purists will tut-tut at me, but it’s true. To me, Ustinov really wears those little grey cells. He comes across as a cuddly teddy bear of a man innately proud of his abilities, but also supremely amused at not only others’ foibles, but also his own. When the agent at the London Trojan Insurance Company laments having to pay out, Poirot tells him this is one of those times he must “laugh and lump eet.” Then chuckles at his own humor.

If that’s not enough to bring you onboard, imagine (for you youngins) a cage match between Lady Olenna Tyrell of Game of Thrones (Diana Rigg) and Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downtown Abbey (Maggie Smith). Yep, you heard me. Intriguing you a bit now?

If you know your Christie, you know the plot will be convoluted and inexplicable, and it doesn’t disappoint here. The movie locale has been transferred from the book’s original island off the coast of Wales, but the snappy dialogue and costumes carry you along on a wave of 1930s bliss. It’s the perfect beach movie (with a little mean-spiritedness thrown in for good measure).

The story begins when the insurance company asks Poirot to speak to Sir Horace Blatt, a millionaire industrialist who has recently tried to insure a diamond with them that is a cheap knock-off. Since Sir Horace is not in London, Poirot must travel to the South of France to visit Sir Horace on his yacht, the Jolly Roger.

Sir Horace explains that he recently met a showgirl whom he bought the diamond for, but she’s evidently had the diamond copied. He wants to confront the woman, Arlena Marshall, and he knows that she’ll be at “Daphne’s Place,” a fancy inn on an island paradise for society folk. Daphne herself is the former mistress of the King of Tirrhenia, who bought her the inn to keep her quiet when he married the Queen. However, since Poirot cannot handle boats (le mal de mer, unfortunately), he must take the train, and says he’ll meet Sir Horace there. But Sir Horace is delayed sue to his “piffle valve.”

When the guests arrive, Poirot doesn’t endear himself to Daphne, what with his unusual demands for “a good valet, a tisane de Montpoivret at 8:00 every morning, and beeswax for his shoes. That’s all.” Oh, and don’t forget his requests for creme de cassis or sirop de banane instead of the Sidecars and Between the Sheets cocktails she favors.

His hilarious “swim” involves him walking shin-deep in the cove, waving his arms in a swim-like motion, but barely getting wet.

PoirotSwim PoirotSwim2

“Great day for a swim, Poirot!”

“You saw me?”

Of course, with a name like Evil Under the Sun, someone has to die. This time, it is Arlena. She’s  a bitchy, gold-digging chorus girl who has recently given up the boards for marriage and stepmother-hood. She is found strangled on the beach in one of the island’s cove. And coincidentally enough, as it goes with Dame Agatha, everyone on the island had a reason to do her in.

This time, the suspects include:

Sir Horace (Colin Blakely) – Thrown over for Kenneth Marshall, and now made to look like a fool since Arlena kept the real diamond and gave him a forgery. He’s plenty mad.

Rex Brewster (Roddy MacDowell) – Fey theatre maven and worshiper of Arlena, who dug a little too deep for his recent biography, and can’t get it published because she doesn’t like what it reveals (her real birthdate, and how she got her role in Flames of Eternity). Oh, and he’s already spent the advance.

Kenneth Marshall (Denis Quilley) – Arlena’s new husband, who discovers she not only hasn’t given up her single-girl lifestyle, but booked her lover into the inn.

Patrick Redfern (Nicholas Clay) – A married, but extremely attractive lothario who romances Arlena, but leaves his wife mopey and miserable.

Christine Redfern (Jane Birkin) – A bit of an unmade bed in the looks department, and a bundle of neuroses as well (she has vertigo, skin that burns easily, and loves pity parties).

O’Dell and Myra Gardner (James Mason and Sylvia Miles) – Husband and wife Broadway producers who sank a mint into their last show, Hail and Farewell, starring Arlena, only to have her quit and leave them holding the bag.

Linda Marshall (Emily Hone) – Arlen’a stepdaughter. At about fourteen or so, she’s at the age when any cruel word can do extra damage to a psyche, and Arlena provides a battery of them.

Daphne Castle (Maggie Smith) – The proprietress of the inn. She and Arlena performed together years ago, and their dislike for each other is palpable. Besides, Daphne’s sweet on Kenneth (and he likes her too).

Poirot has to put two and two together as usual, this time taking into account the following clues: a watch, a bathing cap, a mid-day bath, a bottle of suntan oil, and the noonday gun (fired every day at noon to commemorate the victory of the Tirrhenian Army against an opposing force of Bosnians in 1183).

Guy Hamilton (who also directed Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from 1980) helms the catfight expertly. Hamilton was also the mastermind behind several Bond films (Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, Diamonds are Forever, and Man With the Golden Gun). And in addition to Ustinov, several of the others here are Christie regulars. Jane Birkin and Maggie Smith both appeared in 1978’s Death on the Nile. Denis Quilley and Colin Blakely were both in Murder on the Orient Express.

Anthony Powell outdoes himself with the costume design here. Mostly Arlena’s. A silver lame’ number with turban the first night is not-to-be-believed. And another of stretchy, body hugging red lame.’ Then there are the bathing costumes– one white with huge multicolor dots, matching turban, bangles, necklace and cape. And another with a diaphanous Asian print coverup and a pointed Chinese red hat. In addition, there are Myra’s elaborate hats and Rex’s sailor suits.




Dots versus nautical deathmatch…


Red and slinky…


The Gardners are not amused…


The Chinese hat (fashion accessory or murder prop? You decide…)

The dialogue is side-splitting in certain places. “She runs like a dromedary with dropsy!” Arlena cruelly says of her stepdaughter.  Or “Linda, don’t just stand there like a cough drop, say hello to Monsieur Poirot.” And Daphne throws out expressions like “diggity boo” with no irony whatsoever.

If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out. Pour yourself a sirop de banane, rub on some Coppertone, and prepare to have some fun.

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Here are the other Beach Party Blogathon entries. Enjoy!

Blue Hawaii (1961) Speakeasy
Beach Party (1963) Silver Screenings
Hula (1927) Movies Silently
Lord Love a Duck (1966) Font and Frock
Great White (1981) Mike’s Take on the Movies
Point Break (1991) Brian Doan
The Black Camel Caftan Woman
To Catch a Thief Old Hollywood Films
Horror of Party Beach Sister Celluloid
Beach Blanket Bingo A Shroud of Thoughts
The Fat Spy Forgotten Films
Jaws 2 Cinematic Catharsis
Jaws / Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper Tales of the Easily Distracted
Road to Singapore Now Voyaging
Flipper (1963) and Flipper’s New Adventure (1964) The Movie Rat
Clambake Once Upon a Screen
Drive a Crooked Road Shadows & Satin
Some Like It Hot The Filmatelist
The Palm Beach Story Critica Retro
Piranha Prowler Needs a Jump
On an Island with You (1948) The Stars are Ageless
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Local Hero Moon in Gemini
Open Water (2004) Movie Movie Blog Blog
Malibu Beach (1978) Cinema Monolith
Creature From the Black Lagoon The last drive in Http//
The Endless Summer Wide Screen World
Orca (1977) Film Grimoire
Such a Pretty Little Beach Make Mine Criterion!
The Palm Beach Story The Stop Button
Gidget (1959) Phyllis Loves Classic Movies
The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965) A Classic Movie Blog
Holiday Camp (1947) British Film Classics
Girl Happy (1965) Old Movies Nostalgia
The Seventh Seal CriterionBlues
Tarzan’s New York Adventure. Wolffianclassicmoviesdigest
Stromboli (1950) The Wonderful World of Cinema
All is Lost Hitchcock’s World
And God Created Woman GirlsDoFilm
A Summer Place Pop Culture Reverie
The Ghost And Mrs Muir In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood
Bikini Beach Smitten Kitten Vintage
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini Classic Film & TV Cafe
Lord of the Flies Part Time Monster
Captain Blood Sourcerer
Gidget Chasing Destino
Open Water Herheadache
Teen Beach Movie Victim To Charm
Plein Soleil Ramblings of a Cinephile
Dr. No (1962) The Doglady’s Den
Die Hard With A Vengeance Le Mot du Cinephiliaque
Night Tide The Last Drive In http://www.thelastdrivein
La Mer (1895) Century Film Project
Point Break Everything Noir
Key Largo (1948) B Noir Detour
The Significance of ‘The Beach’ in Hitchcock’s REBECCA (1940) No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen
Italian Film ‘Il Compleanno’, in English – ‘David’s Birthday’ (2009) No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen
Jaws The Cinematic Frontier
Back to the Beach Silver Scenes
Bikini Beach The Hannibal 8
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday The Stop Button
Whale Rider portraitsbyjenni
Summertime. 1955 In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood
Humanoids From The Deep Destroy All Fanboys!
Miranda (1948) Mildred’s Fatburgers
The Beach Back to the Viewer
Cabin Fever: Patient Zero It Came From The Man Cave!
Female on the Beach Movie Fanfare
Beach Blanket Bingo Thrift Shop Commando
Dangerous When Wet Love Letters to Old Hollywood
Beaches Plucking Of My Heartstrings
Evil Under the Sun Sepia Stories
Evil Under the Sun Vivien Leigh
The Old Man & the Sea 365 Days 365 Classics
“The Raft” in Creepshow 2 (1987) Reel Distracted
Beneath the 12 Mile Reef (1953) The Stalking Moon
Beach Party Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings
The Blue Lagoon (1980) confessions of a broccoli addict
Lonesome (1928) Nitrate Diva
Mosayile Kuthira Meenukal Totally Filmi
Girls on the Beach SixtiesCinema
beach movie influence on fashion/pop culture Outspoken & Freckled
Creature from the Haunted Sea U.P. Schlock: The Good, The Bad, And The Retro

Get into the groove…

I love it when the writing is going well. Most of us do.

For me, I love getting past the first draft drudge and moving into the fun part– once the pieces are basically in place, and I can begin to customize the language and let my writing flower, beefing up descriptions and polishing my slang.

It sounds strange, but I NEED my day job to be productive. When I’m at home, I’m terrible about finding excuses– I need to clean the house, I want to work in my garden, I have home improvement projects I need to finish… but when I’m at work, I have around an hour in the morning and an hour at noon that FORCE me to be productive. Bit by bit, the novel expands, and the detail gets polished.

I’m looking forward to visiting Los Angeles again in September, where I can do more research to tweak certain scenes.

How is everyone’s writing going? What are you working on? And are you liking what’s happening with it?

Choosing a cover…

Aah, fall and winter. When my day job keeps me so busy that all I’m capable of doing is chowing down a quick dinner before falling into bed at night. Fortunately, spring is around the corner, and I can see some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel!

The last week or two, I’ve been entering the truly fun portion of the book release process– picking my cover!

I used The Book Designers, and they did an AMAZING job. I fell in love with the covers on their webpage the minute I saw them, so it was a no-brainer for me. Yes, they were a bit pricey, but whether you believe the old adage or not, people WILL judge your book by its cover. I might have bought more self-published books myself the last few years, but some of the covers I’ve seen have been downright awful.

Since this is my first self-publishing venture (but not my first PUBLISHING venture), I didn’t want to be treated like a red-headed stepchild. I wanted my book to be indistinguishable from that coming out of the major houses– in terms of my writing, and in terms of the cover. Considering roughly half my rejections were for stuff like “I don’t know who this person is and I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care” (even though she really existed and lived an amazing short life), I decided to concentrate my marketing efforts toward the Classic Hollywood fandom community. It’s an entire subculture, and I knew that was there my audience lay.

I was allowed three iterations of the cover, but I had a definite vision. I was to email them my most recent manuscript, my most recent synopsis, covers I like, covers of books that fall in the same family as mine, and my vision for it.

Some of my qualifications were:

    • Sepia sepia sepia (you couldn’t guess that from my blog title, could you?) – There’s just something about those hazy black/white/gray/dull brown scenes on covers that takes me to my happy place. The Alienist? Devil in the White City? Yup. Keep em comin!
    • An actual photo of Olive in that sepia tone. Whichever one I could get licensing for.
    • Some possible background images of old-time New York, the Ziegfeld Theatre, etc.
    • An image of an old ocean liner, signifying her trip to Paris.
    • An old-fashioned silent movie camera.
    • A decorative graphic frame type element.
    • A design that can be easily duplicated and modified for future books on the actresses I’m planning. Think of how readily identifiable the books by Christopher Moore, Carl Hiaasen, or Philippa Gregory are.

Then, I let them go to work. Here are some of the ideas, and how I came up with the final product. There were two that arrived with these that I discounted right off the bat. They had some strange rose designs over the top of the whole thing that didn’t work for me at all. Didn’t want them to keep working that angle. But these others were possibles:

1. #3

I like the graphic elements, but they’re a bit more 30s than teens, and I’m not fond of the font at all. Next!


I like the film strips down the side, but #1, the woman in the picture isn’t Olive. #2, I’m still not fond of that font. But I think the film effect would look great on a back cover.

3. #7

I like the colours, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald-y font, but it’s just lacking something for me.

4. #6

This was generally the second favorite among friends and co-workers. But being a period purist, I was bothered by #1, the Hollywoodland sign went up in 1923 (3 years after Olive’s death), and #2 the picture of Hollywood with the searchlights and palm trees would be more suited to the late 1920s and after. Not the dusty, orange-grove filled place it was when Ollie knew it. Plus, her face is upside down! Why?

5. #5

The favorite among just about everyone. I wasn’t crazy about the purple and blue, and the camera in the bottom left looks like someone dripped water on the cover, but I knew this one had potential for multiple designs in the future– especially the top graphic element portion. And I ADORE this font. It also looks good in thumbnails, which are your selling point on Amazon.

So another tweak, and I had this:


I had suggested the warm colours from the other designs, but figured there would be a gold along with the green and orange. To me, the green and orange by themselves were a bit too fluorescent marker-ish. And the fact that Ollie got the green and orange filter too was a drawback.

I asked them to PLEASE make Ollie sepia-toned again, beef up the contrast, and make the frilly parts off-white again. I thought the green and orange on them was a bit much.

So one LAST tweak, and we arrived here:


It’s so gorgeous, I can’t stop gazing at it! The reception so far has been overwhelmingly positive. I posted it in one of my Facebook groups, and have already had a PM from a complete stranger squeeeing over its release, asking how they can get a copy, and wondering how they can spread the word. I’d call that successful.

How have everyone elses’ cover designs gone? Stories to share? Funny tales of designs gone wrong? Or perfectly nailed? Share them with us!

The first few steps up the self-publishing ladder…


So it’s been a few weeks since I made my decision. I’ve already found a cover designer I ADORE. It might cost a bit more than some of the others that are out there, but I think it will be totally worth it.

I got some recommendations from a friend on editors who might be good with my genre. It was hard choosing between the two, but I made my decision this past week, and will be getting edited in January. So excited! Also beginning to build my email list.

After studying the ecopy, I ordered a hard copy of Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self Printed, so have been tabbing pages and underlining important content.

I’ve been setting up my marketing plan ever since I made my decision, hoping I’ll be able to get everything I want done. One of my ideas is to try to set up a table at Cinecon, but I have to see if they find my book suitable (since it’s fiction based on fact). If I can’t, I’ll have to network and print off a bunch of advertising postcards and/or bookmarks about it and just attend the festival.

The folks at the Hollywood Heritage Museum have already expressed interest in having me host a launch party there (so that’s the biggie!).

Yesterday,  I stumbled across my friend, Kim Grabas’  post on her blog, “71 Ways to Promote and Market Your Book.” Thanks, Kim! There are a few more ideas here I need to put into effect.

Is your book underway? Mostly finished? Complete? Have you thought about your marketing plan yet? Your editor? Your cover designer?

Then what are you waiting for?

All right, all right. I’m ready.

I’m not sure what brass ring I was trying to grab, but I’m done.

Before summer of this year, no one could convince me of the merits of self publishing. I was determined to get an agent, and that was it. I know I’m a good writer, and I knew that if I just talked to the right one, everything would fall into place. Dreams die hard, don’t they?

After the conference this summer, I was on Cloud 9. I had an agent who thought my work was the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow…and all those other 1920s expressions I toss out so much in my work. She loved my platform, she loved my first chapter, and effused over everything. She even approached ME in the bookstore, before I even had a chance to meet with her. I was convinced that at last, I’d found THE ONE.







rejected red square  stamp

Nope. Another rejection.”Too depressing,” she said.

And I was flummoxed. Because although I mentioned that my main character had died tragically at 25 and her ghost was narrating the book, somehow this suggested lollipops and roses to this person.

“Fiction is supposed to be better than real life,” she said.

Um…OK. Read “The Fault in Our Stars?” or “Gone Girl?” “Of Mice and Men?” Anything by the Russian writers? Are we talking better or happier? They’re NOT the same.

Also, although I said I was writing about “forgotten actresses,” she was annoyed she couldn’t find anything with my main character in it. Ummm…Blockbuster isn’t around anymore, and there aren’t that many silent films on Netflix. There is, however, this thing called youtube (where a search of her name comes up with several hits for viewing), and another called Amazon, which has a DVD or two of hers. So at this point, I’m thinking I’ve dodged a bullet. Do I want someone that incapable of the research if they really want to find the stuff? No.

This was the last straw. I’m ready to self publish. I’ve got big plans for this baby.

Recently, a self published friend recommended Catherine Ryan Howard’s “Self Printed” to me, so as soon as I could download the 3rd edition that just came out, I did. I’ve been studying it for days to give me the advance skills I need. And although it will cost a little more, I’m having a gorgeous cover and interior designed for me AND getting everything converted to ebook too.  Anyone gone through this same internal struggle? How did you handle it? And how did it turn out for you?

Next summer will be ignition. Stay tuned, y’all.


Life gets in the way, sometimes…

I know. It’s been a couple months since I’ve posted, but I TOTALLY had a good excuse.

After a summer full of house hunting, my husband and I finally found the place for us. Beautiful huge backyard, great deck for entertaining, big enough for all our books…

You get the picture. After several years of getting back on our feet in Canada and renting in a less-than-perfect neighborhood, we’ve finally got a piece of the pie, as the Jeffersons used to say.

A week of unpacking, followed by two months worth of home improvement (so far) have finally begun to pay off a bit. I’ve still been writing, in the mornings before work and at lunch. In fact, book #3 is now up around 304 pages of the first draft (and finally starting to flow as it should…), but the blog has definitely suffered for it.

On the bright side, I know our IKEA like the back of my hand now, I’ve painted the inside of my linen closet, and our upper floor bathroom is an ongoing experiment in “how to de-80s” the world’s most hideous bathroom.

I know, I’ve been naughty, but I’m determined to rev this sucker up!

What’s the longest break from blogging you’ve taken, and what was your lamest excuse?


Climbing the Tree (or, maybe I’ll just drink like John Cheever…)

Here is the piece I originally wrote for a compilation our writers group did for the Edmonton Public Library. Unfortunately, my piece was a bit too adult for the age group they were going for. I like my title. Didn’t feel like changing it. Because sometimes, a Bailey’s on the Rocks makes the sting hurt not quite so bad.

The Big Tree - live oak

It’s always something, isn’t it? If it’s not those insistent little voices in your head screaming to get their stories out, it’s the darker ones that tell you you’re no good and you should just quit while you’re ahead.
But there’s nothing quite like having the last laugh on the voices—for the first bunch, developing their personalities and making them come alive. For the second, proving them wrong.

You can, you know. Anybody can say they want to be a writer, or that they have a great idea for a book. Distinguish yourself by saying it and meaning it. Harlan Ellison once said, “Anybody can be a writer. The trick is staying a writer.” The only way to do that is with lots and lots of practice.

The early birds like me grab a java before work and get in our 1000 words sipping Starbucks or Second Cup at 6:30 a.m.


If I can, I write at lunch as well. Boom. I’m done for the day. Moms can squeeze in a few words while the baby naps. Nights owls and insomniacs stay up until 3 a.m. and rarely feel it the next day. Do whatever works for you. But do it regularly. You want to keep those writing chops in shape. You don’t have any time but lunch at work? Grab something that you can hold in your hand (sandwiches were invented for just this purpose…), and write for your half an hour, forty-five minutes, or an hour. Keep a notebook with you. Start scribbling.

Yes, people may laugh or joke, or call you eccentric. But when you can pay your electric bill from a royalty check (or face it, order a Tim’s double-double, it’s far more realistic), you stop being a joke and start becoming an inspiration.

I once heard the struggle for publication compared to climbing a tree. The low-hanging branches are the ones everyone can access. We all start there, simply trying to finish something. Once you’ve gotten that far, pat yourself on the back and climb up a limb. Statistically, you’re an oddball. Few people who say they’re going to write a book ever do.

But first drafts are crap, right? So then, the real fun begins—rewrites. I’m one of those people who love rewrites. I’m actually a better RE-writer than I am a writer. Last book? Twenty-five of them. And I’m still not convinced that’s enough. Done with your rewrite? It’s up another branch for you.

Once you think you’re ready, you have to do what writers equate to having their fingernails pulled out, slowly, one by one—the dreaded query letter. You’ve got approximately three or four paragraphs to make an agent fall in love with what you’re selling, whether it’s sparkly vampires or boarding school wizards, or something even cooler—you.
“Why do I need an agent?” you ask. “Isn’t print dead?”
The answer isn’t a simple one. Print is still around, and bookstores are still around. We don’t know for how long, but the truth remains—as long as they are and you (like me), want to walk into a bookstore and see your baby on the “New Releases” table, an agent can be your best friend at offering well-intended suggestions and criticisms, and getting you the best deal for your money. But obtaining one is a long hard slog. You’ll send out queries. LOTS of queries. E-queries. Paper queries. Or you might even summon enough gumption to pitch your idea to an agent at a conference. Climb another branch.
But if you do finally find the person who actually gets you, and what you’re trying to bring to the world? Who understands what you want to say and wants to help you spread it to that wider audience? That person is worth their weight in some sort of precious metal. If you find one, climb up another limb. And this time, buy yourself a drink to celebrate. That is a milestone, my friend.


The rejections—from agents, from publishers, or from just about anyone who reads you and decides to rate your writing as sub-par will mess you up. It’s no exaggeration, so prepare yourself. Imagine holding up your beautiful new baby, and some wiseacre saying, “That’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen.” This is exactly what it feels like. Imagine no one ever saying anything nice about your precious creation. Imagine them asking if your kid has a lazy eye or Down’s syndrome. They’ll never say, “That kid’ll grow up to be president!” However, they will be sure to point out his numerous flaws.


But here’s the thing. Melville, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Margaret Atwood, even Stephen King have all felt the nasty sting of rejection, and look where they are—the upper echelon. You all wear the badge of honor. Climb another branch. You’re in good company.


While all this is going on? Learn about the art of writing. Master your craft. We all have weaknesses, so it helps to figure out what yours are. Join a writing group and get critiques of your baby. Not family, because they can’t be impartial. They’ll always tell you your baby is beautiful, even if it has three heads. Get beta readers to check out your stuff. Don’t know any? Join a website like and hang out in the forums. If you socialize and make friends, you can find betas to give you tips on what’s working, and what’s staler than 10-day old Bundt cake.

It’s hard. Really hard. But someone once said that a professional is just an amateur who didn’t quit. It’s corny, but true. Hang in there. Keep getting better and keep reading a lot in the genre you want to write (and every other genre too). You want to be able to recognize the good stuff so you can aspire to it, and know the bad stuff so you don’t imitate it. Pretty soon, you’ll be hanging in those top branches with the best of ‘em. Maybe I’ll see you there.


A visit to the Hollywood Heritage Museum

After making a trip to the Hollywood Heritage Museum (also called the Lasky/DeMille Barn), I look back and wonder how I existed as an old Hollywood fan before.

It’s been moved twice from its original location at Selma and Vine, but early on it became the gymnasium for Paramount, and then in the 1950s, it was moved to Highland, right near what is now the 101 freeway.

I absolutely loved this place. It sounds a little woo-woo, but when I walked in, I felt the most incredible combination of extreme peace and nerve-thrumming excitement. If I have to get absolutely technical, I felt like I had been there before, but I’ve never visited it. OK…enough of that.

The front area is a small reception desk and a bookstore (uh-oh. I’m in trouble). Just to the right of the entrance is the area that used to be Cecil B. DeMille’s office. They have it decorated with period antiques and memorabilia to give it just the right look.


Cecil’s office, looking toward the screening room area in the back

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More shots of Cecil’s office 

Sorry for the blurriness. Still learning to wrangle my cellphone camera.

Supposedly, Cecil was quite fond of his wastebasket. He could simply lift his feet up, lay his boots across it, and when they hosed out the stables in the back, he could keep his boots clean.

As you progress toward the back, you see a middle room with lovely wall hangings that have been created to look like the fronts of famous Hollywood landmarks. I’ve posted some of them below.




Did I mention the gorgeous old makeup kit?


Here’s an old bottle of spirit gum, for adhering beards, moustaches, etc.

One of the displays was a tribute to the Garden Court Apartments (RIP). Their destruction was what first fired up historical preservationists in Hollywood. Included under glass is one of the old caryatids that used to decorate the exterior.



Garden Court caryatid and pictures of the building

In the very back, where the horses used to hang out, there are tons of antiques pertaining to old Hollywood. Old cameras, programs, playbills, posters, props, etc. Get a load of this stuff.


Old home screening camera


Old poster for Universal Studios (before it got Disney-fied)


Old menu for the Paramount Italian Kitchen


Price list for home kinetoscopes


Incredible old movie camera


Case full of incredible history

Thank God those in charge back in the early formative years had the foresight to preserve this incredible building and the history it contains.

Here is more information on the museum: