“Kiss Me Kate” and Cherry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream (Ice Cream Social Blogathon)

I’m pretty sure I discovered the Marx Brothers first– when I was around 10 or 11. I happened by the living room as my parents watched Harpo on his harp, and I was enchanted. A Night at the Opera led me to MGM Musicals, and I must have watched That’s Entertainment a kajillion times.

Showboat came first, at around age 12, but it was quickly supplanted in my pantheon of favorites by Kiss Me Kate when I was thirteen.

It’s brilliant when you think about it. It was first a hit on Broadway, with the book by Samuel and Bella Spewack, and who else but Cole Porter could have possessed the wit, the magic, and the artistry to turn Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew into these musical gems? Plus, MGM included the impossibly deep-voiced Howard Keel and the impossibly lovely Kathryn Grayson (even with a bad red dye job) as our stars. How could I resist?

Poster

At the time, I knew nothing about Cole Porter, I just thought it was a fun plot with hilarious songs. It’s only been since I’ve gotten older that I’ve really been able to appreciate the genius that was Cole Porter. Who could rhyme  “flatter her” with “Cleopatterer” or “heinous” with “Coriolanus?” (both from “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”).

My feminist sensibilities these days make me cringe at some of what goes on, but the good vibes from my youth remain.

Our main characters are Fred Graham (Keel) and Lilli Vanessi (Grayson), a divorced couple. They are former co-stars onstage as well as off, and as the movie kicks off, Fred and Cole (Ron Randell) are trying to sweet talk Lilli into being in their new production. they play So In Love so Lilli can hear some of the tunes, and you can see there’s still a little attraction between them, even though they snipe at each other (mostly Lilli at Fred).

And then complication #1 arrives, as Lois, Fred’s new girlfriend arrives (Ann Miller, in an abbreviated costume since she’s between gigs at the Copa). She insists on performing “Too Darn Hot” for everyone (even though Cole whispers to Fred that it’s been removed from the show). Ann Miller is my least favorite thing about the movie. Yeah, she can dance, but her personality GRATES on me, calling him “sweetie” every three seconds.

Although she’s nervous about the role interfering with her honeymoon (to wealthy cattle baron, Tex), Lilli eventually decides to take the role as Katherine, since she’s the star, and Lois is slated for Bianca. But as rehearsals begin, and Fred gets harsh with Lilli because her bows aren’t deep enough during curtain call, she utters her first “you LOUSE,” and you know things won’t be going as smoothly as hoped.

At the theater, we see Bianca with her real-life boyfriend, Bill Calhoun, and we see that she’s two timing Fred. Mostly just so she can work at something other than nightclubs. She’s convinced Bill, a chronic gambler, that this show is the key to them finally hitting the big time. Unfortunately, he’s just lost a couple of G’s. Only he signed Fred’s name on the IOU. She sings “Why Can’t You Behave.”

Fred sends flowers to Lois, but his butler, seeing that he’s used the same flowers that were in Lilli’s wedding bouquet, has them sent to Lilli by mistake. Lilli is enchanted, and sings a reboot of “So in Love” (before reading the card).

As their show gets underway, (after a brisk “We Open in Venice”), we get into the meat of the story. If you know the play, there’s this rich merchant in Padua who has two daughters. Bianca, the younger, is beautiful and sweet and has tons of suitors. She and the fellas sing “Tom, Dick or Harry” to show that she’s open to just about anyone. But according to the familial rules, the elder sister has to marry first. Unfortunately, Katherine (called Kate) is a bit of a bitch, so that means Bianca’s destined to stay single forever unless somebody brave steps up to the plate.

That brave soul turns out to be Petruchio, who while a bit of a womanizer, has decided to settle down. But only if that means a serious amount of coin for him (“I’ve Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua”). But then we get to see just how nasty Kate can be when she sings “I Hate Men.”

IHateMen

“Oh you may call it love, the doctors call it rheumatism….oooooh I hate men!”

But Petruchio sings “Were Thine That Special Face” to Kate, and Lilli is so moved, that she decides to read the card for the flowers, that she had stuck into her dress. Uh oh. When she says “You louse!” this time, she’s not acting. HOW could Fred send HER wedding bouquet flowers to Lois?! When they begin to scrap onstage, Lilli is out for blood, and throws in a couple choice words that aren’t in the script. Fred’s so annoyed that he tosses her over his knee and wallops her onstage (not very feminist of me, I know).

Lilli is so annoyed that she calls Tex to come pick her up. She’s leaving the production. But at the same time, two goons (Lippy and Slug) show up to collect on the debt that Bill Calhoun so kindly left in Fred’s name.

They of course don’t believe him when he tells them it’s not his signature, so he tells them “I don’t have the money. But there’s a way I can get the money– this show has to go on.” Unfortunately, he says, it won’t be able to go on because his star is quitting. And Lilli won’t be bulllied, so the logical thing to do, is have Lippy and Slug dress up as extras in the cast and stay onstage with her so she can’t sneak out, which is one of the funniest things about the film. Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore are my favorite!

As the play progresses, Petruchio won’t let Kate sleep (at least anywhere comfortable), won’t let her eat, and is generally abusive to her until he wears her down and she begins singing a different tune. But in the meantime, he misses catting around (“Where is the Life That Late I Led”). The combination of women’s names and exotic Italian locales make this one of my favorite songs. Another of Porter’s funniest.

Tex arrives to take Lilli away, and when he gets there, Lois recognizes him, pissing off Bill. It turns out that Lois has a thing for rich men, and even though she loves Bill, she likes dates with guys who have the money to show her a good time (“Always True to You in My Fashion”), with lyrics like “Mr Fritz invented Schlitz and that ain’t hay!”

While Lippy and Slug are on the phone with their gangster boss, they hear him being unceremoniously dispatched by machine gun fire, so Bill/Fred’s debt is automatically forgiven. Lippy and Slug commiserate with Fred about his women problems and tell him that dames like classic verse, and that he oughta “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”

BrushUpYourShakespeare

“If you can’t be a ham and do Hamlet, they will not give a damn or a damlet…”

The guys leave on good terms, wishing Fred the best, and he tries to figure out how to make do with an understudy. But Lilli surprises him by coming back. As the play concludes, Bianca ends up with Lucentio (Petruchio’s friend), and her other suitors end up with attractive ladies as well. they all sing “From This Moment On,” and then Kate/Lilli enters and gives her speech about how women should bow to their husbands (and all that crap that I haven’t believed since I quit wearing pantyhose about 1985) (“I’m Ashamed That Women Are So Simple”). When things wrap up, it looks as though Fred and Lilli are going to reconcile in real life as well and they all do the finale’ (“Kiss Me Kate”)

Now imagine a 13-year old me seeing this musical and finding my mom’s soundtrack album (yes, vinyl- that’s what we did back then), and listening to it over and over again. I memorized the lyrics. And as an even bigger geek, I even tortured my junior high classmates by playing “I Hate Men” when I volunteered to provide my stereo for our 7th grade dance. Because I was madly in love with Joe S., and he only tolerated me, kind of like a mosquito you keep swatting at but can never quite get rid of. Every once in a while, he’d throw me a bone and ask me to dance to a slow song, because there were only about 30 kids in our class, and we were all friends (it was a Catholic school, and that’s what you did back then). So this whole musical reminds me of those carefree days of yore, because back then, the most important thing in life was that Joe ask me to dance (or skate, because these were the roller disco years, after all). When he didn’t, I’d once again play “I Hate Men,” (and bang a pretend tankard on a table), and then everything would feel better.

Not long after my “Kiss Me Kate” period, my father died, and then everything changed radically even more than I thought they could. This movie takes me back to a much more innocent, much more happy time.

*************************************************************************************************************

I chose Cherry Chocolate Chunk for my ice cream flavor because it reminds me of the cherry-colored dress that Lily wears when she’s singing “I Hate Men.” This one is taken from a magazine I picked up a year or so ago, Matthew Mead’s Backyard Style. It’s only called Cherry Ice Cream in the mag, but it’s like your own homemade Cherry Garcia. Yum!

Cherry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup whole milk

2 T. sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 t. salt (they missed this in the ingredients list, but this is what I used, and it tasted OK)

2 egg yolks

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 pound fresh cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I like using our lovely Canadian Bernard Callebaut variety…)

  1. To prepare the ice cream base, pour 1/2 cup cream into a medium heatproof bowl and set it in a larger bowl filled with ice and water to make an ice bath. Place a strainer on top.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining 1/2 cup cream, milk, sugars, and salt until sugars are dissolved.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly whisk in some of the warm milk mixture to temper the eggs without cooking them, then pour it all back into the saucepan.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, or, if using a candy thermometer, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 160 to 165 degrees. Remove from heat.
  5. Pour the cream mixture through a strainer into the reserved cream and stir. Whisk in the vanilla. Let cool in the ice bath until it reaches room temperature. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until cold.
  6. Place the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to directions. If you don’t use an ice cream maker, place the bowl in the freezer, whisking every 30-45 minutes to break up the ice crystals. When the ice cream base is a few minutes away from being completely firm, stir in the cherries and chocolate.
  7. Enjoy!

 

“What we want most to be, we are” (Movie Scientist blogathon)

barrymoreposter

This is my post for the Movie Scientist Blogathon, sponsored by Silver Screenings and Christina Wehner. Thanks for having me, y’all (and sorry for running a bit late on “Mad Scientist” day. My pick is the version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the one and only John Barrymore.

For years, I had thumbed through my father’s dog-eared copy of “A Pictorial History of Horror Movies,” and I was thrilled to finally watch my first Barrymore. After hearing for years about “The Profile,” this was going to be a treat.

barrymoreprofile

The Profile as Dr. Jekyll, Chronic Do-Gooder

Most people know the story– Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel about a doctor intent on separating the aspects of man’s personality: the good, and the not-so-good. It was turned into a stage play that made the impetus behind his transformation more of an external one as opposed to Stevenson’s original, more internalized reasons. This was one of the first filmed versions (the first was Thanhouser’s with James Cruze in 1912, available here), and it captivated the nation. Barrymore had needed a hit, and he had it.

Directed by John S. Robertson (who also helmed a few other flickers for Barrymore and Mary Pickford), this version stars John Barrymore (of course), Martha Mansfield (as his sweetheart, Millicent Carew), Louis Wolheim (as the music hall owner), and Nita Naldi (as dancer, Miss Gina).

milly&jekyll

“Don’t worry, Milly. Lemme just get some ya-yas out, then we can get hitched, mmmkay?”

Henry Jekyll, is a philanthropist and all-around good guy who manages a “human repair shop” for helping the poor with various ailments (a euphemism for today’s type of free clinic). He’s got a pretty fiance’s, Millicent, and a bright future. But when Sir George Carew (the father of Millicent), finds Jekyll’s altruism something to poke fun at, he unknowingly plants an idea that begins to obsess Jekyll. He can’t believe that one man would deprive himself of so much in his constant service to others. Jekyll defends himself in saying that it is in service to others that one develops himself.

Which self?” Carew scoffs. “…a man cannot destroy the savage in him by denying its impulses…”

And so begins Jekyll’s experimentation with a formula– one that can separate man’s baser natures into a different personality. He calls his Mr. Edward Hyde.

hyde

Ask us about our economical and convenient orthodontia packages…

Hyde digs bars and opium dens and other nasty places, and he’s turned on by skanky women like Miss Gina, a dancer at a nearby club. She’s exotic and earthy, and she turns him on in ways poor Milly couldn’t even think of. So much so that he takes rooms in the ‘hood to be more within that element when he’s Hyde-ing. Oh and one more thing about Gina? She’s got this cool ring that opens up to hold poison (<–foreshadowing).

naldi

Miss Gina got A’s in Scarf-Waving 101

Jekyll actually has the forethought to tell his servant Poole, essentially, “Oh, buddy, there may be a complete stranger hanging around the house. Chill and let him do his thing. He’s a friend of mine. ”

He has also had the forethought to create a potion to turn him back into his milquetoasty original version, but as these evil alter ego changeover things go, it isn’t the best remedy. In fact, each time he takes his evil potion, the counter potion returning him to Jekyll status isn’t quite as effective. He looks more evil and acts more evil than the time before.

But of course, the supply of the drug to turn him back Jekyll-ish is soon gone, and now he has to try to figure out how to get more, when  London is having a run on Jekyll-drug supplies.

How the heck can he make a Walgreen’s visit when he could spontaneously Hyde at any moment? Why is his future father-in-law so concerned about his freaky friend, Hyde? Why is Gina’s ring missing?

These questions and more are answered in the movie, and it can be fun at times– when Hyde is around. Barrymore is the man to watch here, and his transformations are remarkable (the first one knocks your socks off). The long hair, the shadows under the eyes, and the closeups of his hand turning arthritic and clawlike– the personification of evil.

The directing is also quite good. There’s a scene with a spider that is seriously creepy. But quite frankly, when Barrymore wasn’t onscreen, I found my mind wandering. The other characters seem like they’re sleepwalking by comparison. I’m a silent film fan, but was really disappointed in most of the other acting.

Poor Martha Mansfield (she of the hoop skirt disaster from the Warrens of Virginia), smiles and looks pretty but doesn’t have a lot to do overall. It’s a shame she was never given a chance for more of a career.

And Nita Naldi, in one of her first roles, while pretty and earthy, is supposedly a “dancer.” Her pre-Isadora Duncan dancing looked curiously like Prissy’s lollygagging in Gone With the Wind (at about 0:06-:07). Blood and Sand is a far better vehicle for her. Although she does a good take as the post-Hyde, used up version of Gina.

I give it three stars, based solely on Barrymore.

An overview of the life and career of Marie Prevost (O Canada blogathon)

Now that I’m practically Canadian, I couldn’t let an opportunity pass me by to participate in the 2016 O, Canada Blogathon, hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina at Speakeasy. So here’s my look back at the life and career of Marie Prevost, a Canadian gone Hollywood.

It’s a shame that when you say the name of Marie Prevost these days, most people remember her death more than her life, but when you feature heavily in one of Kenneth Anger’s books, you can only expect your life to be blown up and dissected in an unpleasant, completely unfactual way.

But sit back, and we’ll discuss the life and career of Marie before the Hollywood Babylon stories got so out of control.

Now, everyone says she was born in 1898, but just one look at the 1900 census where Marie appears as a 4-year old disproves that right off the bat. That she was born in Sarnia, Ontario is undisputed. Marie’s father worked for the railroad, and he was killed when one of the trains separated in the St. Clair Tunnel between Sarnia and Port Huron, Michigan.

At some point, her mother, Hughina, met Frank Prevost (he was from Michigan, so someone probably crossed the border for provisions, or sightseeing, or whatnot), and they eventually married. I haven’t been able to find the marriage in multiple collections of records in Familysearch or Ancestry yet.

The family struck out for parts west, and somehow ended up in Ouray City, Colorado of all places. Frank ended up as a saloonkeeper (check the 1900 census for this info…), and while there, Hughina and Frank had another daughter, Marjorie (called Peg), Marie’s stepsister.

It’s not definite when the family arrived in California, but it was most certainly by 1916, and possibly earlier. Marie’s first part (although unconfirmed) is listed as His Father’s Footsteps (1915) in imdb.com. One account says that she was to bring some sort of contract for Mack Sennett to sign, and she was duped into appearing in a scene. But however it happened, she ended up becoming one of Sennett’s Bathing Beauties. (Since this is the O, Canada blogathon, it’s worth mentioning here that Mack Sennett was also Canadian, born Michael Sinnott, originally from Danville, Québec.)

The Bathing Beauties were a group of eye candy girls, who appeared in Sennett’s features (other co-stars included Phyllis Haver, Teddy the Dog, Pepper the Cat, and even Gloria Swanson). At a time when a glimpse of a lady’s ankle was considered shocking, and bloomers had to be worn at the shore, their beachwear was utterly scandalous. They combined maillot type suits with boxing boots or slippers with ribbons criss-crossing their ankles, flirty scarves in their hair, and one stocking up, the other rolled coquettishly down. They frolicked on the beach, playing with lobsters, pointing at faraway promontories, and playing in the waves.

Her first lead role was in 1919’s Yankee Doodle in Berlin, where she played a Belgian girl who helps an American aviator behind German lines. the flyer dressed as a woman to fool the Germans and steal a crucial map. Since the war had just ended, it was the perfect time to make fun of the Germans.

beachmarie1916: American actor Gloria Swanson (1899 - 1983) stands on tiptoes on the prow of a motorboat while Teddy the dog sits with his paws on the steering wheel in a still from director Clarence G Badger's film 'Teddy at the Throttle'.

Two shots of Marie in her stylin’ beachwear. That’s Teddy the dog at the steering wheel of the boat

After several years with Sennett, Marie understandably wanted to broaden her repertoire. In 1921, she signed with Universal. At the time, Irving Thalberg was there, and to increase interest in her features, he suggested a symbolic burning of her swimsuit to signify moving on from her Bathing Beauty days. Marie lit it up on Coney Island, one of the biggest summertime audiences she could get for such an event.

Her first film for Universal was Moonlight Follies (1921), directed by King Baggot. Other with equally frothy names and themes followed, such as Kissed, A Parisian Scandal, and Her Night of Nights followed. When he contract at Universal ended, she signed with Warner Brothers, which while a plum contract and more attention, would eventually put her at odds with management.

Arguably, her first big break came with 1922’s The Beautiful and Damned. The smash novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald was ripe pickins for a studio to grab, and they wanted a perfect flapper to play the part of Gloria, Anthony Patch’s love interest. Enter Marie, and enter Kenneth Harlan as Anthony.

marie and kenneth
Ken and Marie. Nice profile on this guy

The co-starring duo fell in love, which was their consolation after Fitzgerald commented, “Its by far the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my life-cheap, vulgar, ill-constructed and shoddy. We were utterly ashamed of it.”

Ashamed or not, the movie still raked in the profits. In the heady, gin-soaked days of uninhibited flappers, prohibition and a booming stock market, how could it not be a success?

beautifulANDdamned fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was not amused…but the picture was still a hit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marie and Harlan continued their relationship, and when the studio caught wind and wanted to capitalize on it, the news soon broke that they were getting married (a publicity ploy thought up by Jack Warner. However, a wrinkle arose when the scandal broke: Marie was already married! In 1918, she’d hooked up with spoiled rich boy Sonny Gerke, and they’d eloped. Marie had never gotten around to filing for divorce, and sensing money to be had, Sonny ran to the papers. Warner was furious with her, despite the fact that he’d been the one to publicize the Prevost/Harlan marriage without checking with Marie first. Warner didn’t forgive and forget easily.

Jack_Warner_portrait_copy

Jack Warner, never one to forget a slight

Marie continued to play flappers and light comedy, and that would be her usual type for future films, a natural offshoot of her Bathing Beauty persona (films with names like The Married Flapper and The Dangerous Little Demon). Alternately, her roles could be wives who worked a little flappery-y magic to liven up their marriages in films like The Marriage Circle or Blonde for a Night. Because of his notable “Lubitsch touch,” it is often said that her best work was with Ernst Lubitsch in works like Three Women, Kiss Me Again, and The Marriage Circle.

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An ad for Kiss Me Again in Moving Picture World, 1925. Monte, lay off the eye shadow, man

Marie and Ken finally married in October of 1924, and lived in a beautiful home at 810 N. Camden.

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They had their problems like any couple, but in 1926, things began to go wrong for Marie. First, there was the loss of her beloved mother. Hughina Prevost had been in a car with Marie’s friend Vera Steadman (from the Bathing Beauties) and director Al Christie when they were in a car accident in New Mexico. The back axle fell off the car, and Hughina was killed.

Marie was devastated, and the sadness consumed her. For those of us who have experienced such a deep and profound loss, you know the grief can overwhelm everything else in your life. With Harlan gone much of the time shooting, and her good friend Phyllis Haver from the Bathing Beauties now married and living her own life, Marie didn’t have much of a support system.

She drank to help herself cope, but the problem was that drinking (and face it, too much eating too) helped to pack on the pounds– not an ideal situation for a woman who’d made her career with frothy, flapper-y parts. the drinking caused other problems too. She and Harlan began arguing, and looked like they were headed for divorce court. They reconciled for a while, then decided to divorce for good. Her looks (not just her waistline) began to show the effects of the drinking. Life became little more than the bottom of a bottle for poor Marie.

One of her better roles during this time was in 1929’s The Godless Girl with Lina Basquette.

exhibitorsherald1928GodlessGirl

A harder, heavier Marie in a feature article for The Godless Girl (1929)

The talkie revolution was making Hollywood nervous too at the time. Marie had the voice, and she could act, so she was able to fend off the worst by taking whatever parts she could get. Many times, she played the mouthy best friend and had to swallow her pride. Her life was reduced to one long starvation diet to keep the pounds off, but drinking to cope. As time went on, even those parts began drying up and she was reduced to bit parts.

We all know what happened and how things played out for her, so I won’t give it more attention here. Too much attention is paid to her death rather than her life and her work.

For a TRULY enlightening look at Marie Prevost, her parts, and her life, make sure to check out Stacia Jones’ blog at She Blogged By Night.

An overview of Ziegfeld Girl (part of the Backstage Blogathon)

“Once upon a time there were three little girls…”

Had you going for a minute, didn’t I? Instead of backstage antics at the Ziegfeld Follies, you thought I was going for an Aaron Spelling-flavored review of a certain 1970s program that shall remain nameless.

If you think about it though, the Ziegfeld Follies were really an early version of jiggle programming. Aaron Spelling and Florenz Ziegfeld were both middle-aged Jewish guys in show business who were good at discovering beautiful women, having them wear skimpy outfits, making them famous, and then getting rich from the proceeds.

Title

In 1941’s Ziegfeld Girl (directed by Robert Z. Leonard, ex spouse of ex-Ziegfeld girl, Mae Murray, and also behind the helm of 1936’s award-winning The Great Ziegfeld), we follow the adventures of our three aforementioned girls in their quest to be discovered at the Follies. The blonde (Lana Turner, as a redhead here, although it’s not as obvious in black and white), the brunette (Hedy Lamarr), and “the smart one” (Judy Garland). Ziegfeld Girl seemed an obvious choice for me to write about, since I most recently wrote about another Ziegfeld Girl, Olive Thomas.

Sheila Regan (Lana) happens to get Ziegfeld in her elevator car, and he gives her a card. Sandra Kolter’s (Hedy’s) husband has an audition for the orchestra at the New Amsterdam, and she is snatched up as the most beautiful woman in the room without even trying. Susan Gallagher (Judy) shares a Vaudeville act with her father, Pops Gallagher, and they are doing their damnedest to get hired with the act. Only Ziegfeld isn’t interested in Pops, only in Susan.

LaughSusan and Pops in their act (“Laugh, I Thought I’d Split My Sides”)

They are all discovered in various ways, but begin settling into the Ziegfeld routine– the elegant way of walking, gliding with books on their heads, practicing the routines, and rehearsing.

Lana-book

 

Judy-bookHedy-book

Okay, I’ve mastered The Little Prince. Let’s move onto War and Peace!

Each of them have a complication in their personal lives. With Lana, it’s her boyfriend Gil (Jimmy Stewart), a truck driver who really loves her, but can’t give her all the pretty things she desires and the life she thinks she wants. With Hedy, it’s her husband Fritz (Philip Dorn), who resents the fact that she’s been picked up at the Follies and he hasn’t (plus, she has to wear skimpy outfits and men are looking at her-especially the scoundrelly, married Frank Merton). With Judy, she has to decide which is more important– her career as a Ziegfeld Girl, or her relationship with her father (Charles Winninger), who still has to go out on the road, touring with theater companies, which she’s tired of after many years (not that she hasn’t met some very charming trained seals…).

Lana lets it all go to her head, the jewels, the gifts, and the glamour from rich men (who don’t include Gil, of course).Only, in shunning Gil, she pushes him into criminal activity with his trucking that can help him pull in the dough he needs to impress her.

Hedy coasts along on her beauty, enjoying the attentions of Frank Merton when her husband gets resentful of her success, and Judy has a bit of a meet cute with Lana’s brother Jerry (Jackie Cooper).

To say any more about the plot would be to give too much away. Lana gets to do lots of scenery chewing and has some great flippant lines (especially when shutting down a would-be suitor, who then calls her “one of those refrigerated dames”). Sadly, Ziegfeld Girl doesn’t end happily for one of our plucky heroines.

The costumes, by Adrian, are fabulous as usual, and the dances by Busby Berkeley are always exciting to see, especially in classic Ziegfeld numbers like: “You Stepped Out of a Dream” and “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean”, in addition to “Mini From Trinidad” and “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.”

As a fan of MGM musicals from way back, I’ve always enjoyed Ziegfeld Girl. I only wish that it had been filmed in technicolor. Just imagine how much more stunning it would have been in color versus black and white.

Apologies for this abbreviated blog post because I discovered the copy I was going to use to watch won’t cooperate, so I’m doing this mostly from memory combined with IMDB.

Thanks to Fritzi at Movies Silently, and Janet at Sister Celluloid for letting me play.

 

The Silent Movie Star Sandwich contest is on!

Love silent movies? Love food? Then here’s a challenge for you.

Fritzi over at the Movies, Silently blog is running a sandwich contest. Create a sandwich inspired by your favorite silent star (or stars)!

dagwoodsandwich

Submit it to win digital copies of my own The Forgotten Flapper and also, Princess April Morning Glory from Sandramantos Publishing.

More information on the sandwich contest is available here.

Good luck and happy snacking!

Laini

 

Hooray for Hollywood! The Hotel edition

What an amazing two weeks it was!

When I knew I was going to publishing The Forgotten Flapper in August, the first thing that occurred to me was that I could market it at the Cinecon Silent Film Festival, which always falls around Labor Day.

I had made lots of acquaintances online before I left, but was excited about meeting everyone in person at last. I wasn’t disappointed!

First thing, checked into my inn. I LOVE the Hollywood Bed and Breakfast. I won’t stay anywhere else. William and Nina have become like family, and their gorgeous home is always great to come back to, now that it’s a regular stop. It’s a bit removed from the chaos, while still being right off Hollywood Boulevard, which is wonderful for being central to everything. This is the view from my room, below.

Picture 054 Picture 055

I arrived on Friday afternoon and pretty much collapsed at the inn for most of the evening. The next morning, it was time for Esotouric’s “Hotel Horrors and Main Street Vice” tour. We started from a neat little cafe called The Daily Dose way down in the back of beyond south and east of downtown. Great little courtyard between two ancient buildings for grabbing some breakfast. But warning about doing this in August:   It was hot. I mean HOT.

Much of the tour was on a bus, but we also got out at a few points to see the interiors of a few of the hotels. I was THRILLED I finally get to see the inside of the important parts of the Alexandria (I tried last time I was there, but the Esotouric folks have special permission to see the Palm Court Ballroom, which was in the part I wanted to see). The Alex has a starring role in my book, but I had to imagine it in my head as I had read the descriptions and only seen one photograph up to this point.

It’s so sad that many of Los Angeles and Hollywood hotels have fallen to the wrecking ball. The Roosevelt and Biltmore are gorgeous examples of those that haven’t.

The hotels and sights below are only some of the highlights of this terrific tour, so you should take it yourself, so you get all the goods on the salesman who fell out the window of one of the hotels, or the Skid Row Slasher, or the B girls and taxi dancers who made up a huge portion of the tour.

 

One of the first ones they drove us by, I couldn’t get a good photo because I was attempting to turn my camera on and listen to tour guide Richard at the same time. That was the King George, which has quite the illustrious history. It served as an actors’ hotel in the early days of Hollywood. In 1912 it was gutted by fire, and several people died. It has fallen on hard times, and Richard told us amusing stories of being there back in the day. They will do tours if you call ahead.

In 1952, they experienced another fire. Seven people were killed in this one. And in 1980, a cop was a bit quick on the draw and shot out the front window.

The Alexandria Hotel (affectionately called the Alex) saw its heyday during the silent film days, with million dollar deals being made on the carpet in the lobby. It feel on hard times in the 1930s and 1940s, and only boxing promoters were keeping it alive. There were boxers sparring under the beautiful stained glass ceiling of the Palm Court. And then the US government came in and dropped the incredible ceiling. But here are some pictures of what it looks like today:

When you enter, you’re greeted with a lacework-bannister staircase, that is not quite as beautiful as the original grand staircase, but still beautiful.

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When you go down to the corridor off to the left, you enter a large space that used to be the lobby, with grand ceilings that rose at least two stories. How disappointing to see them in their current state.

What is now serving as a bar used to be the main check-in desk.

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And off to the left of this space is the entrance to the Palm Court. Which at least has Historical Landmark Designation.

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That ceiling is definitely as beautiful as it looks. Stunning, in fact.

We left that and went up another set of stairs, but it was an unremarkable climb, as you got to see what other changes had been wrought, and not for the better.

Some of the other hotels on our itinerary were the Barclay (formerly the Van Nuys…) at 4th and Main. The very cool art deco Barclay sign went up in 1931. If you look closely, you can see the old intertwined V & N (for Van Nuys) in the stained glass above the windows.

 

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More of the Barclay below:

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After the Barclay, we saw the King Edward Hotel (built 1906) at First and Los Angeles. Look at the ceilings in this place. And the marble columns. Truly stunning. It’s a shame that it has fallen on such hard times.

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This was initially a hobo’s corner, with tons of saloons. The gospel wagons parked outside, trying to save souls, but after some time, there was legislation passed, and they could only park for an hour a day. Note that things haven’t changed much around this neighborhood. On this tour, you really get to see Skid Row in all its glory, and you can begin to understand the massive homeless problem that L.A. is dealing with.

This tour is amazing, and I can’t wait to go back to Esotouric to experience more of the seamy underbelly of L.A.

Stay tuned for more L.A adventures!

Update…

“So, Laini,” you’re saying. “Are you EVER going to check in from your trip to Hollywood?”

“Well, of course,” I say. But being as how I’ve been a bit busy selling, merchandising, taking tours and such, I want to be able to share all the awesomeness with you, and include lovely photos and descriptions.

I’ll be on it as soon as I’m home! And much good news will follow…

 

It’s been a bittersweet week in these parts…

A few weeks ago, my company decided to lay an entire unit off at my job, including me. But I’ve had to stay this long to aid in the transition. Monday, I turn in my computer, my badge and anything else important I still have.

Layoff Notice

Yesterday, my team took me out for lunch. My boss presented me with an absolutely lovely, black leather designer handbag (for taking to signings), a fancy Kate Spade pen (so I have a special signing pen), and a bottle of what I’m sure is relatively expensive champagne.

I haven’t cried yet, but I have a feeling I’ll be a total waterworks on Monday. I had a love/hate relationship with this job– SO high stress, yet such amazing benefits. My stock options helped me get my book out in the first place. I can kiss those goodbye. Mostly, the people here were my friends. They were my family. Most, I adore, and will miss terribly. Others, probably not so much.

This is now my fourth layoff (the third of not making it through), and during the first, I bawled like a baby for most of the day, seeing most of my co-workers getting chopped. I just can’t do that anymore. I’m friends with everyone, and this is a smaller town than Dallas was, so I’m sure I’ll see most of them again– at the Farmers Market, at The Fringe, out at a restaurant, meeting for coffee.

People have asked me if I’ll only write from now on. That would be great if the income was as good as this last job (it isn’t). I have a mortgage now. And I enjoy going out to brunch, which gets expensive. I’ll still have to work, but I’m in no hurry to go back to the grind. I’ve got three appearances planned here in Alberta to promote The Forgotten Flapper. I’ve got an appearance in Hollywood at Cinecon, and I’m headed to Surrey, BC in October for the writers conference there.

Right now, I’m just looking forward to enjoying some writing time and being able to relax for a while. But it’s a decision I’d love to be able to make. That whole…not having a job and following the dream thing. But eventually, I’ll at least have to take on a contract job for a while to pay the bills.

Have any of you been in this situation, and did you make the dream a reality, doing what you love?