Monday, November 23, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm off for Thanksgiving and plan to be back to blogging next week. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your family!

Monday, November 16, 2020

John Gavin: Before Multiculturalism Was Popular


Actor John Gavin 
I was looking for something interesting to post and ran across this interesting tidbit from Thoughtco.com about classic celebrities who passed for white. 
I was familiar with the other celebrities featured in the article, but I didn't really know that much about John Gavin. He wasn't a huge star, but I've seen a few of his movies. However, I had no idea he wasn't 100% Anglo! Read on...
John Gavin was born John Anthony Golenor Pablos in Los Angeles. He has Irish and Mexican ancestry and speaks Spanish fluently. But unlike Anthony Quinn, who was also half-Mexican and played characters of various ethnic backgrounds, Gavin consistently played white characters during his tenure in Hollywood.
The leading man is known for his roles in the 1960 films “Psycho” and “Spartacus” as well as for 1959’s “Imitation of Life,” a remake of the 1934 version with Fredi Washington. While that film chronicles the plight of a young mixed-race woman who passes for white, Gavin’s mixed-race background is never referenced in that film or in others, despite his dark hair and swarthy skin.
In 1981, however, Gavin’s heritage resulted in former actor and President Ronald Reagan appointing him the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Gavin served as ambassador until 1986. 

I never would have guessed!  Would you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Love Against the Odds

Not long ago, my friend Lisa recommended three movies that she knew I'd enjoy, all from different time periods. Two dealt with interracial love (one of my favorite topics), while the third was a May/December romance. 

Here's a brief summary of each film from IMDb:

All That Heaven Allows (1955): An upper-class widow falls in love with a much younger, down-to-earth nurseryman, much to the disapproval of her children and criticism of her country club peers.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)A lonely widow meets a much younger Arab worker in a bar during a rainstorm. They fall in love, to their own surprise-and to the outright shock of their families, colleagues, and drinking buddies.

Far From Heaven (2002): In 1950s Connecticut, a housewife faces a marital crisis and mounting racial tensions in the outside world.

I don't claim to be a movie reviewer, but I'll share my thoughts regarding each film. My favorite was the sappy melodrama All That Heaven Allows. Why? Because it had a happy ending!


All That Heaven Allows
focused on socio-economic status and an older woman younger man relationship. I loved how the main character Carrie's detached/clinical social worker daughter couldn't handle the situation. Her WASP son wasn't any better. Ron, the love interest was a novelty to Carrie at first (a nice set of muscles, as her son said), and she was willing to let him go to keep her children's approval (and maybe that precious social status, too). But love conquered that in the end and they became equals who'd live a non-snobbish lifestyle. The doctor character was a voice of reason and support for Carrie, so that was refreshing.

Ali:Fear Eats the Soul was fascinating. It was interesting to see how the issue racism and ethnicity was addressed in Europe at that time. Also, the relationship of a much, much older (and not very attractive) woman and a younger man was intriguing. When the main character Emmi falls in love with Ali, she loses everything. It's even mentioned that she's not really even German because she has a Polish last name. Her children, neighbors, and workmates offer her no support and are quite cruel. Though this is difficult for Emmi, Ali is too important to her and she won't end their relationship. 

After they return from a long vacation, Emmi is accepted back by her community because of what she can (monetarily) offer. She even participates in alienating a new co-worker from Yugoslavia. With her place restored, she wants to change Ali, perhaps assimilate him. At this point, he seems like more of a possession (and a nice set of muscles), and not an equal. He eventually becomes an equal in their relationship, but that doesn't happen until after she drives him into another woman's arms. Though I was happy Emmi and Ali reunited, I was saddened when she told him he had her permission to stray. The stomach ulcer told Ali's story. The discrimination and rejection he faced ate away at his soul. The landlord's son was supportive of their relationship early on, so that was nice to see.

Far From Heaven
 (inspired by the other two movies mentioned above) was a really hard hitting film! No age issue, just Yankee racism. NO happy ending here or even a supportive character, aside from perhaps the maid. This movie portrayed the ultimate relationship (black man/white woman) where no lines could be crossed in 1950s America! 

Frank, the gay husband, is a fascinating angle. And when he hears talk of his wife, Cathy, being seen with a black man, he blows quite the gasket! He'd worked so hard at establishing the perfect life for his family (and hiding his gay affairs) and she was destined to destroy all he'd accomplished. Cathy has to lie about her excursion with Raymond, her black gardener. And though nothing transpires between them, when she does open up to her best friend, Eleanor, about her feelings of just thinking about him, Eleanor drops her as a friend. 

Raymond seems to be a secret desire, one left hidden and best not discussed. He is a fantasy, something Cathy longs for, but knows she can never have. And knowing he feels the same and desires her makes it all the more heart-wrenching, especially after watching her live with an alcoholic husband who doesn't really love or desire her. The ending is sad, but realistic.  

Have you seen any of these movies? If so, do you have any thoughts to share? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Citizen Kane

Tomorrow is election day! I'll be glad when it's over and the final count is in. In honor of election day, I'm featuring Citizen Kane on the blog today.  This movie is considered  to be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest movie ever made! I love the story, the acting and the cinematography.


William Bayer, in his book The Great Movies, says, "Citizen Kane is a version of Faust, the story of a man who gains the world and loses his soul... Orson Welles has said that Citizen Kane is a 'portrait of a public man's private life,' and that may be the best summary of all."

Bayer explains that Citizen Kane is about William Randolph Hearst, not literally, of course, but in the form of a fictionalized fantasy produced with the intention of exploiting public interest in a controversial man... One of the most delightful things about Citizen Kane is the way it uses Hearst against himself. Citizen Kane exploits him the way his papers exploited everyone else. Citizen Kane is yellow journalism. It sacrifices the truth about Hearst for the sensational aspects of his story."  

Never seen the movie? Here's some information from Wikipedia:

Citizen Kane is a 1941 American mystery drama film by Orson Welles, its producer, co-author, director and star. The picture was Welles's first feature film. Nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories, it won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Welles. Considered by many critics, filmmakers, and fans to be the greatest film of all time... It topped the American Film Institute's 100 Years ... 100 Movies list in 1998, as well as its 2007 updateCitizen Kane is particularly praised for its cinematography, music, and narrative structure, which were innovative for its time.

The quasi-biographical film examines the life and legacy of Charles Foster Kane, played by Welles, a character based in part upon the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, Chicago tycoons Samuel Insull and Harold McCormick, and aspects of Welles's own life. Upon its release, Hearst prohibited mention of the film in any of his newspapers. Kane's career in the publishing world is born of idealistic social service, but gradually evolves into a ruthless pursuit of power. Narrated principally through flashbacks, the story is told through the research of a newsreel reporter seeking to solve the mystery of the newspaper magnate's dying word: "Rosebud."

Here's the synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia:


In a mansion in Xanadu, a vast palatial estate in Florida, the elderly Charles Foster Kane is on his deathbed. Holding a snow globe, he utters a word, "Rosebud", and dies; the globe slips from his hand and smashes on the floor. A newsreel obituary tells the life story of Kane, an enormously wealthy newspaper publisher. Kane's death becomes sensational news around the world, and the newsreel's producer tasks reporter Jerry Thompson with discovering the meaning of "Rosebud".
Thompson sets out to interview Kane's friends and associates. He approaches Kane's second wife, Susan Alexander Kane, now an alcoholic who runs her own nightclub, but she refuses to talk to him. Thompson goes to the private archive of the late banker Walter Parks Thatcher. Through Thatcher's written memoirs, Thompson learns that Kane's childhood began in poverty in Colorado.
In 1871, after a gold mine was discovered on her property, Kane's mother Mary Kane sends Charles away to live with Thatcher so that he would be properly educated. While Thatcher and Charles' parents discuss arrangements inside, the young Kane plays happily with a sled in the snow outside his parents' boarding-house and protests being sent to live with Thatcher.
Years later, after gaining full control over his trust fund at the age of 25, Kane enters the newspaper business and embarks on a career of yellow journalism. He takes control of the New York Inquirer and starts publishing scandalous articles that attack Thatcher's business interests. After the stock market crash in 1929, Kane is forced to sell controlling interest of his newspaper empire to Thatcher.
Back in the present, Thompson interviews Kane's personal business manager, Mr. Bernstein. Bernstein recalls how Kane hired the best journalists available to build the Inquirer's circulation. Kane rose to power by successfully manipulating public opinion regarding the Spanish–American War and marrying Emily Norton, the niece of a President of the United States.
Thompson interviews Kane's estranged best friend, Jedediah Leland, in a retirement home. Leland recalls how Kane's marriage to Emily disintegrates more and more over the years, and he begins an affair with amateur singer Susan Alexander while he is running for Governor of New York. Both his wife and his political opponent discover the affair and the public scandal ends his political career. Kane marries Susan and forces her into a humiliating operatic career for which she has neither the talent nor the ambition.
Back in the present, Susan now consents to an interview with Thompson, and recalls her failed opera career. Kane finally allows her to abandon her singing career after she attempts suicide. After years spent dominated by Kane and living in isolation at Xanadu, Susan leaves Kane. Kane's butler Raymond recounts that, after Susan leaves him, Kane begins violently destroying the contents of her bedroom. He suddenly calms down when he sees a snow globe and says, "Rosebud."
Back at Xanadu, Kane's belongings are being cataloged or discarded. Thompson concludes that he is unable to solve the mystery and that the meaning of Kane's last word will forever remain an enigma. As the film ends, the camera reveals that "Rosebud" is the trade name of the sled on which the eight-year-old Kane was playing on the day that he was taken from his home in Colorado. Thought to be junk by Xanadu's staff, the sled is burned in a furnace.
Citizen Kane is a masterpiece and a great movie to watch any time, but especially during the political season! However, don't multi-task while watching! Pay close attention so you don't miss any of the details significant to the story, as well as the brilliant cinematography.
Have you ever seen Citizen Kane? If so, what are your thoughts?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Psycho's Shower Scene

I'm on a roll with creepy movies this month, and one of the scariest is Psycho. The infamous shower scene is one of the most frightening around. After seeing it, many people didn't take a shower for months, or even years! 

I mentioned last week that I don't like blood and gore slasher movies. But even though there's lots of slashing in this particular scene, and even some blood, it's more implied than visual, which makes the scene so masterful!

Psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Janet Leigh, who usually played a good girl, but in this film was cast as wayward secretary Marion Crane. In a surprising twist, she's killed off in the first 45 minutes of the film. Her murderer is cross-dressing, psychotic hotel manager Norman Bates played by Anthony Perkins. Where is Marion killed? In the shower, of course.  The scene took a week to film and I found some fascinating facts about it at History.com. Take a look at some of them below:

Psycho became Hitchcock’s most successful film at the time—its box-office take, $32 million, was the second best of 1960, after Spartacus. But it was made despite much resistance. Paramount, the studio that had produced several of the director’s 1950s successes, refused to bankroll it. So Hitchcock financed its budget himself, against the advice of his own producers. The film also rattled the censors who executed Hollywood’s slackening Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, which was in effect from 1934 to 1968.

The censors balked at what they perceived as nudity in the shower sequence. Leigh wore moleskin patches to hide sensitive areas, as did her body double, pin-up model and future Playboy cover star Marli Renfro, who took over for more exposed moments. But there also was the opening scene, in which Leigh’s Marion wears only a bra and slip, sharing a hotel room with her divorced lover. The censors wanted that changed, too, but the savvy director tricked them. He sent back a copy of the shower scene that was unchanged, confusing the censors as to whether they had seen something or not. He also invited them to the set where he would reshoot the offending opening scene, but none of the censors showed up.


Much of the scene, which was storyboarded in consultation with the legendary designer Saul Bass (and took a week to film), was shot in extreme close-ups, with swift edits, so that the nudity and violence is implied—felt—but never actually seen. The shower set was constructed so that any of its walls could be removed, allowing the camera to get in close from every angle. And Hitchcock employed a fast-motion reverse shot to make it look like the blade actually pierced Marion’s abdomen.

The shrieking strings of composer Bernard Herrmann’s score ratchet up the tension.(It was a novel use of violins, which had usually been employed in film soundtracks to enhance a sense of romance or pathos.) Hitchcock at first resisted them, planning to use no soundtrack at all for the scene. To make the experience even more palpable, the sound of Marion’s flesh yielding to the knife was created by stabbing a casaba melon. Hitchcock had his crew audition multiple varieties of melon until they found the right kind.

Audiences have had six decades to adjust to such visual frenzy, but in 1960, the same year when wholesome, traditional films like 
Swiss Family Robinson and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies also dominated the box office, watching it might have induced panic.

For the complete article, click here, and to watch the shower scene, click here! Have you ever seen Psycho? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!