Thursday, September 10, 2009

We've Moved!

We're big time now with our own domain!! You can find us at:


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Alfred Hitchcock - Master Marketer

Millie from the always fascinating blog ClassicForever was nice enough to allow me to contribute a guest post to her month-long Alfred Hitchcock Birthday Bash!

The post is a look at an often-unnoticed skill of Hitch: his genius ability to market his films.  Anyone interested in personal branding or marketing, take note!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck...

Slate Magazine ran an interesting piece a couple months back detailing the sorry state of today’s vampires called "Vampires Suck: Actually they don’t. And that’s the problem." Vampires seem to be the “it” thing right now, especially in Hollywood, but the vampires nowadays are nothing like the classic vampires. So if you’re like me, and refuse to get into the new vampire craze, or can’t get enough of vampires and need a new outlet to feed your habit, here are a few classic and pre-classic vampire films to try:

Les Vampires (1915): A ten part silent serial about a vamp named Irma Vep, played by Musidora, and a gang of criminals that call themselves Les Vampires. The direction and acting is very artistically done (see the photo above) and each part contains a new and fantastic plot that borders on surreal.

A Fool There Was (1915): Silent film star Theda Bara plays The Vampire, but not your typical bloodsucking vampire. This vampire is a woman who seduces and brings a married man to ruin. This film depicts one of the first vamps which became the prototype for the femme fatal characters of film noir and modern films.

Nosferatu (1922): A German horror expressionist film and the first film adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula starring Max Schreck as the Count Orlock. The vampire portrayed in this film is a scary, repulsive version, which contrasts to later films that show a more aristocratic, sensual vampire.

Dracula (1931): The classic vampire film that made a huge impact on all vampire and horror films that followed. Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula set the standard for what a vampire should look and sound like. Two sequels, Dracula's Daughter (1936) and Son of Dracula (1943) followed.

Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein (1948): A comedy/horror film combines the comedy duo Abbott and Costello with the horror trio Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolf Man. Bela Lugosi reprises his role as Dracula and gives the same great performance in this film as he did in the 1931 Dracula.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy Birthday, Hitch - Love, MTV

August is Alfred Hitchcock's birthday month and the unlikeliest of media channels decided to pay tribute.  

MTV posted a highly complimentary article on their site giving information about Hitch's life and a short retrospective of his films.  We're thrilled to see the Master Of Suspense and classic films in general getting attention on a site that largely caters to a younger demographic.  I rarely say this, but kudos, MTV!

Look, MTV - you actually made Hitch smile!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Classic Film Influence - Gangsters

While I was doing some background research on Little Caesar, I came across an interesting bit in a book called The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia. The entry for Little Caesar discusses how the now cliched lingo for gangsters (mugs, flatfoots, moll, the goods, etc.), was taken not from real street talk, but from the imaginations of Hollywood writers. It's a good example of the enduring influence of Hollywood and classic films. Anybody have some other examples?

Above is Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) and his boys in Key Largo (1948).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Classic Film on Twitter

If you've given in and joined Twitter - the latest online craze - you can get news and info about classic film in between all those tweets in your stream about who's mowing their lawn and who had an especially tasty sandwich for lunch.  Here's who to follow:

Turner Classic Movies - @tcm
Updates from the cable movie channel about upcoming programming as well as general discussion about specific films and stars.

Elizabeth Taylor - @DameElizabeth
This one's been certified by the folks at Twitter as Liz's official feed.  Although she doesn't often tweet specifically about the world of classic film, it's still interesting to know what she's up to.

Lauren Bacall - @Lauren_Bacall
I'm not actually sure if this one is run by Lauren, but it's fun to read none the less.  Frequent reminisces about fellow movie star friends and pictures of them together are very interesting.

Nick Charles - @Thin_Man
An anonymous fan tweets solely lines spoken by the dashing detective in any of the 6 "Thin Man" films.  Highly entertaining.

American Film Institute - @AmericanFilm
Mostly links to various videos housed in their newly launched video portal (which we blogged about here) with a few fun tweets thrown in including movie trivia, upcoming events and retweets of other prominent members of the movie world.

Let us know if you find any others worth following - enjoy!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Elisabeth and Essex and the Coolest Boots in Classic Film

Continuing my unintentional Michael Curtiz-a-thon, I watched The Private Lives Of Elizabeth & Essex (1939) last night.  Review is forthcoming, but until it gets posted, enjoy these fantastic boots worn by all the male actors in the film - design courtesy of Orry-Kelly.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a full-length picture, so this one will have to suffice.  You get the idea.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Review: Little Caesar (1931)

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Co-Starring: Glenda Farrell, William Collier Jr., Sidney Blackmer
Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy
Other notable contributors: Darryl F. Zanuck and Hal B. Wallis - producers.

Favorite scene: Rico meeting Big Boy in his fancy apartment. Rico is out of his element amidst such luxury and his mannerisms are amusing in an otherwise serious film.

Favorite line: "You can dish it out, but you got so you can't take it no more." - Rico

Raves: Edward G. Robinson is fantastic as Caesar Enrico Bandello, a gang member who through smarts and force, eventually becomes one of the most powerful gang bosses in Chicago. Rico is a multi-dimensional character, who maybe isn't the biggest guy on the block, but is sure the toughest gangster in the neighborhood. Robinson is convincing not only as the tough guy, but also when depicting Rico's concern for friend Joe, played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. shows through.

Rants: Some of the supporting acting is either over the top or not convincing. It can be a bit disappointing when Robinson is so great in his role.

My take: The film is fairly short, only about 80 minutes, and the pace never lags nor does the plot get boring. Even though the plot isn't exactly fresh to modern day audiences, Little Caesar was one of the earliest films to show the life of a big city gangster. In this respect, it's interesting to watch later gangster films, including modern ones, and see just how much influence Little Caesar had on the film genre.

Recommended if: Your in the mood for a good gangster film without a lot of violence but with a great main character.

Modern-Day Counterpart: Scarface (1983). This film is much more violent, but both films have similar story arcs depicting the rise and fall of a gangster.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

AFI Video Portal

The American Film Institute has launched the beta version of a new video portal that classic movie fans may find interesting.  The site houses clips from such events as the Life Achievement Awards, the 100 years... series, and various seminars.  The site is a little slow and difficult to navigate, but hopefully these issues will be addressed during this testing period.  I hope they'll be adding to the content, as there are some Life Achievement Award ceremonies I'd love to see that are currently not posted (Cagney, Welles, Wilder, Bette Davis, etc).

I especially enjoyed watching clips from Alfred Hitchcock's Life Achievement Award ceremony  with appearances by Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Jimmy Stewart, Vera Miles, Tippi Hedren, Henry Fonda, Theresa Wright, Jane Wyman, Edith Head, and more.  When dear Ingrid makes a lovely speech to congratulate him and thank him for his guidance, Hitch never cracks a smile.

We'll report back and let you know if/when they add more classic movie-related videos!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Supporting Actor Spotlight: Karl Malden

Name: Mladen George Sekulovich

Notable Roles: Harold 'Mitch' Mitchell (Streetcar Named Desire - 1951), Father Barry (On the Waterfront - 1954), Archie Lee Meighan (Baby Doll - 1956), Sheriff Dad Longworth (One-Eyed Jacks - 1961), Gen. Omar Bradley (Patton - 1970).

Trademark: Played wide ranging roles from generals to priests, but often played an everyman.

Achievements and Awards: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (1951 - Streetcar Named Desire), Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series (1985 - Fatal Vision), President of the Academy of Motion Pictures, Screen Actor's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award (2003), inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame (2005).

Why we love him: Malden was one of the most versatile supporting actors in Hollywood and gave some of Hollywood's most memorable performances in supporting roles. Malden is also credited, along with Marlon Brando, Elia Kazan, and other New York theatre stars, as bringing a more realistic style of acting to the screen. Malden always came across as a likeable guy who you wanted to root for and for this we want to thank Karl Malden for being a great supporting actor.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Supporting Actor Spotlight Series

Very shortly, we'll be starting a new post series discussing one of our favorite classic movie topics - the supporting actor.  So many talented actors never quite get the attention they deserve (as this Daily Show clip points out after the death of Karl Malden).  You never see Biography: Thelma Ritter or AFI Life Achievement Award: Thomas Mitchell, even though these actors are an essential part of the films they're in.  Never fear, talented supporting actors - Anatomy Of A Classic, uh, supports you.  

Who's your favorite?  

Monday, July 6, 2009

Review: Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Starring: Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlow, Gary Merrill

Co-Starring: Millard Mitchell, Dean Jagger
Directed by: Henry King
Other notable contributors: produced by Darryl F. Zanuck

Favorite scene: Brigadier General Savage (Peck) visiting a wounded pilot (Marlow) in the hospital.

Favorite line: "I never heard of a jury convicting the lawyer." - Major Stovall

Raves: Even though the film is about a WWII bomber group, this isn’t really a war movie. It’s more of a study of leadership and how Gregory Peck’s character is able to turn a “hard luck” bomber group into a successful unit despite resistance from his men. The film is very engrossing and the screenplay is well written. There is none of the usual overdone go-get-‘em mentality of most war films. Instead, the film depicts the real emotional damage war has on the people involved in a profound way.

Rants: None come to mind.

My take: My father has been trying to get both of us to watch Twelve O’Clock High for years, but I always shrugged it off as another war film (not my favorite genre). I’m glad I finally did watch it though, and I hope others don’t do what I did for so many years. While the film may not contain the snappy dialogue that I think makes other classic movies entertaining, it does have several short monologues or exchanges between characters that can be equally as engaging.

Recommended if: You're in the mood for a more thoughtful or thought provoking film.

Modern-Day Counterpart: The movie Gallipoli (1981) is similar in that it explores the effects of war on the solidiers fighting in it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New To Classic Film? 6 Movies To Get You Started

If you're a member of Gen Y, it's pretty easy to know absolutely zilch about classic films. Unless they were played in your house growing up or you cultivated the interest on your own, you might never have been exposed to them.  We've put together a list of 6 films that can serve as an introductory set to the Golden Age of Hollywood.  These 6 were chosen not just because they are great films, but because they'd make an easy transition for a viewer not used to the style of classic filmmaking.  So if you'd like to see more of Casablanca than just the parts featured in When Harry Met Sally, read on.

North By Northwest (1959)
Alix says--  A good introduction to Hitchcock. The mystery keeps you in suspense and keeps the film at a good pace. Also a good classic color film for those leery about black and white.

Lindsay says--  Tons of interesting locations, lots of action sequences, a vibrant Herrmann score, and the legend that is Cary Grant.  

All About Eve (1950)
Alix says--  One of my all time favorites. The characters are memorable and it has a fantastic script that shows off classic film dialogue at its best.

Lindsay says--  Scripts don't get much better than this.  We quote this movie all the time and you have too if you've ever said "buckle your seatbeats..."  A
fantastic cast.

Casablanca (1942)
Alix says--  This film has it all: romance, comedy, drama, and suspense. Lots of great acting, one liners, and excellent use of black and white film that will leave you wanting more.

Lindsay says--  There's a reason this is the classic movie.  I find more humor in this film every time I view it.  Watch this so that next time you hear someone say "Here's looking at you, kid", "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship", "Round up the usual suspects", or "Play it again, Sam" you'll know what they're talking about.  And then you can be a know-it-all and tell them that "Play it again, Sam" isn't actually the line.

On The Waterfront (1954)
Alix says--  Watching this film will make you want to see more of Marlon Brando. A simplistic plot but it keeps your interest and is never boring.

Lindsay says--  A compelling film.  The characters still seem so modern, even though it was made decades ago.  Like Al said, you will be hooked on Marlon Brando after watching this movie.  

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Alix says--  One of the best uses of black and white film, perfect for someone who isn’t used to it. The characters and film background will pique your interest in classic film culture.

Lindsay says--  A film noir with style.  Shot in a similar style of today's films, with intrigue and tension from the very first frame.  

The Thin Man (1934)
Alix says--  A very funny film even 75 years later and a great introduction to classic comedies.

Lindsay says--  A murder mystery with a sophisticated sense of humor featuring a new kind of detective.  Witty banter, a dog named Asta, and a cocktail (or two...or three...) for good measure.  

Monday, June 29, 2009

Review: The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ava Gardner

Co-Starring: Edmond O'Brien, Marius Goring, Warren Stevens
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Other notable contributors: Joseph L. Mankiewicz - screenplay, Jack Cardiff - cinematography

Favorite scene:  Verbal sparring match between multi-millionaires Kirk Edwards (Stevens) and Alberto Bravano (Goring).

Favorite line:  "A press agent is many things, most of them punishable by law." - Harry (Bogart)

Raves:  Mankiewicz can write great lines.  Lines that are not only funny or clever, but thought-provoking.  He makes interesting observations on all aspects of life, the important and the trivial, usually through the use of narration -- think the Mankiewicz-written exposition in All About Eve as performed by George Sanders.

Rants:  The ending.  I won't spoil anything in case you haven't seen this one yet, but the ending almost ruined the movie for me.  The ending is bizarre and seemingly out of place with the tone and context of the rest of the film.  I was watching it with my roommate, who three-fifths of the way through jokingly shouted out a random guess at how it would end.  We laughed at her preposterous suggestion and then gasped with horror  when her guess proved to be correct.  

My take:  I was disappointed, mostly by the ending.  It's too bad, because I think very highly of Mankiewicz as a writer.  You let me down, Joe.  Side note - I was pleasantly surprised to find Marius Goring adeptly playing the role of the suave, South American businessman Bravano.  Goring is a usually fair haired actor well known to myself for playing the role of Sir Percy Blakeney in the 1956 television series "The Scarlet Pimpernel".

Recommended if:  you really, really like Joseph L. Mankiewicz and your dog chewed your copy of All About Eve and A Letter To Three Wives is on loan to a friend
Modern-Day Counterpart:  Ending aside, Save The Last Dance (2001).  Both feature a dancer who ventures into a new world with the help of a trusty confidant.    

Review: Wife vs. Secretary (1936)

Starring: Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow

Co-starring: James Stewart, May Robson, George Barbier
Directed by: Clarence Brown
Other notable contributors: costume design by Adrian

Favorite scene: Linda, Loy’s character (the wife), and Whitey, Harlow’s character (the secretary), exchange a long look at the end that sets everything straight.

Favorite line: “Don’t look for trouble where there isn’t any, because if you don’t find it, you’ll make it.” - Dave

Raves: It’s really the stars of the film that make it worth watching. Gable and Loy are great as always, but I really enjoyed Jean Harlow in a role where she isn’t just the blonde bombshell. Jimmy Stewart also does a great job in a supporting role as the boyfriend of Jean Harlow’s character, Dave.
Rants: The wife being jealous of the husband’s secretary isn’t the most original plot.

My take: What I really love about the film is how differently the two couples are depicted. The scenes between Harlow and Stewart are especially wonderful and its unfortunate they never made another film together. Also, although the title suggests a comedy, I see the film as really more of a drama with fun parts.

Recommended if: you’re looking for an easy to watch film with some great stars.

Modern-Day counterpart: The only modern counterpart I could think of would be Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) based on the love triangle between characters. Anybody have a better suggestion?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Review: High Society (1956)

Starring: Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra

Co-Starring: Celeste Holm, Louis Armstrong, Louis Calhern 
Directed by: Charles Walters
Other notable contributors: Cole Porter - music, Helen Rose - costumes

Favorite scene:  Pre-wedding party.  Grace Kelly's character, Tracy, has a little too much champagne and funny lines follow.

Favorite line:  "I'm sensational.  Everybody says so!" - Tracy

Raves:  While I love films in black and white, High Society was made for Technicolor.  The brightly colored sets and rich costumes add to the sprightly tone.  The Cole Porter songs are lighthearted, hummable little ditties that move the film along at a nice pace.  My favorite one, "Well Did You Evah?" features Frank and Bing duetting and dancing in the library.  A line in that song makes reference to the real-life changing of the guards in popular music:
Bing ad-lib: "buh bum bum bum" 
Frank: "Don't dig that kind of crooning, chum"
Bing: "You must be one of the newer fellas"

Rants:  Very few.  Can be a little silly at times.  

My take:  Grace Kelly,  Cole Porter tunes courtesy of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, vibrant Technicolor, the plot of The Philadelphia Story - what's not to love?  While the original 1940 non-musical version has better actors in the three leading roles (Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart) High Society is more fun.  I watch this film about once a month.  

Recommended if:  you're looking for a fun, lighthearted movie for a sunny afternoon and you don't mind musicals.

Modern-Day Counterpart:  My Best Friend's Wedding (1997) - both have a strong, central female character with a lesson to learn and good use of music.

As Louie Armstrong says, "end of story!" 



Hello and welcome to Anatomy of a Classic!  We're two sisters who share a love of classic movies and a penchant for discussing and debating them.  Atypical for classic movie fans, we're both in our early 20's.  Feel free to write us anytime.