Sunday, February 28, 2010

And The Winner Is...

And the winner of my first ever givaway is... #3 Miss Ivy Black! Just send me your address to jej_wkrp [at] and I'll send your gifts out right away.
I shall plan another giveaway for sometime in the late spring/early summer. Any suggestions as to what to include?

What did everyone think of the Closing Ceremonies? I liked the part with William Shatner, Catherine O'Hara and Michael J. Fox and Michael Buble's Wayne and Shuster-style musical number, all of which were things that should have been in the Opening Ceremonies. Since Canada doesn't have a national identity, why not showcase Canadian talent and humour and make fun of every stereotype about Canada.

Classic Television {The Avengers}

Throughout the history of the great cult-classic The Avengers, John Steed has had many partners, but no one can beat the chemistry he had with the style icon Mrs. Emma Peel!
The Nick and Nora of the spy world, Steed and Emma used witty banter, class, elegant action and intelligence with a touch of eccentricity to save the world from blackguards and mad scientists. It's one of my all-time favourite television shows and one of the few shows that I can watch over and over again and not be bored by it.
Mrs. Peel was always fashionably dressed in the latest mod styles and was forever redecorating her various flats -she had three different ones, as she moved for every year that she was one the show, but my favourite one is the '65 one with the giant eye on the front door (alas, I couldn't find a picture of it). Mrs. Peel's mod fashions also act as the perfect balance to Steed's Edwardian three-piece tailored suits, steel-lined bowlers, trick umbrellas and his impeccable manners and charm.
In addition to being a style legend, Mrs. Peel is also a great role model -I think she was one of my first role models (coincidentally, my hero is also from a vintage television show, although he's not fictional and has nothing to do with Steed and Mrs. Peel). She was never the damsel in distress, waiting around for Steed to rescue her. Mrs. Peel was always equal to Steed, obviously intelligent, a brilliant scientist, an expert at judo, karate and investigating and she could sew too! I wish that there were more role models like her around nowadays.
And who could forget the infamous emmapeelers? They were always practical for breaking and entering and playing fisticuffs with villains -the brightly coloured ones that is, not the leather ones.
There are two really terrific things about the Mrs. Peel era. First, Steed and Emma would add a touch of realism by reusing their wardrobe, something not often done on any television show. And second, you always knew that the episode would end happily, with Steed and Emma getting into a vintage automobile and driving off to have some champagne and nothing bad would every happen to them, because super heroes can't die!

Here's the intro to the colour episodes, several of which are on YouTube at the moment, in case you've never seen The Avengers.

Did you know that The Avengers had a hit song that was also a critique of the fashion industry called "Kinky Boots"? It was sung by Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman in character as John Steed and Cathy Gale. The Avengers is one of the reasons why boots were so popular in the Sixties. By the way, does anyone know if there exists a reproduction of Mrs. Peel's white ankle boots with the black stripe on them?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Classic Television {Danger Man}

The most realistic of all spy films and television is Danger Man, staring the television genius that was Patrick McGoohan. The first series ran from 1960-62, predating all other major spy series, however it's not very good, since it had a limited budget and tried to fit an hour long show into the half-hour format, although it was popular.
The second series had a bigger budget and ran from 1964-68 was and still is popular throughout the world. The Americans ran it as Secret Agent and gave it a rather annoying theme song. It's a great edge of your seat type of adventure series that is often humourous too.
I find John Drake to be the most believable of all spies. He plays the character as sort of a civil servant working for British Intelligence, which I suppose is what all spies really are and he takes his job very seriously. Drake is sent to deal with problems that can't be solved with traditional diplomacy. He is required to infiltrate and gain the trust of those involved in the messy situations so that he can alter the outcome in accordance to his orders. Most of the time he has to prevent traitors from handing over their secrets, rescue kidnapped scientists and VIPs, investigate crime rings, track down missing documents, prevent military coups in Africa and South America and prevent important people from defecting. To do this, he would adopt a character suitable to infiltrate the situation, usually a journalist, bland diplomat, brainless playboy, bumbling tourist and once even a butler.
What makes the show realistic are that the situations that Drake finds himself in are believable and there is not always a happy ending.
Drake is also infallible, he does make mistakes, gets arrested, allies betray him and equipment and plans fail. He also occasionally clashes with his superiors, who sometimes lie to him. However, Drake is also a moral man as he is rarely armed and uses his intelligence, charm, humour and quick-thinking to solve problems rather then killing everyone. He is also never romantically involved and has few friends, because the nature of his job makes it hard to form lasting relationships and to completely trust anyone. McGoohan also wanted to make a family-friendly show, although there is usually just one fist fight an episode.
The gadgets used were often bought off the self and were continuously re-used, particularly a camera hidden inside a cigarette lighter and a tape recorder hidden inside an electric razor. The costumes too came from off the rack and were rarely over the top, which makes for a fantastic study everyday fashions of the Sixties. And wait till you see the different types of men's hats that Drake wears!
There are 47 episodes of the second series of Danger Man and my favourite episodes are: "You're Not in Any Trouble, Are You?", "A Date With Doris" and "Don't Nail Him Yet"

Here's a video trailer from the 90's

Here's a clip from an episode

N.B. John Drake is not Number Six.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Daily Outfit

Just a gentle reminder that my very first giveaway ends this Sunday at around 11pm Pacific, which is early Monday morning for the rest of the world, so do please get your entries in!
I was going to work on a post or two about the Olympic-related free events that I went to this week, but then I remembered that my classes resume on Monday and I have been successfully avoiding my homework for the past two weeks, so I'll have to do that next week along with adding some vintage items to my Etsy shop. What will you be doing this weekend? Will you watch the Closing Ceremonies? I hope that they wont be the hit-and-miss spectacle that the Opening Ceremonies were, but they probably will be.

Cardigan: thrifted
Skirt: Plum
Belt: thrifted
Scarf: vintage
Tights: Hue
Shoes: The Bay

Has anyone else been feeling sort of blah this month? I can't think of a better word other then "blah". I've always found February to be a confusing month. It's too short and winter is ending but spring isn't here yet and I never know which coat to put on in the morning.
I have one of the most wonderful films ever to share on Tuesday -it's Pressberger and Powell month! But in the mean time, here's a little video to make you smile:

How to Tie a Scarf #4

1. Place a patterned oblong scarf around your neck, it's best to use one on the narrower side. Keeping one side long enough to tuck under your cardigan, tie a square knot (not too tightly) and push the longer side up through the neck and spread it evenly over the knot.
2. With your right hand, pick up the panel an inch or two in from the edge of the scarf and wrap it around the first button. It's best to work from the top down and the wear a medium-weight cardigan, (a light wool is best) with slightly large button holes.
3. Carefully send the button-scarf combo through the button hole. Repeat. If you have a scarf tail at the end, try to tuck it into your half slip, if you're wearing one.
4. Adjust the scarf so that the knot is covered up and the scarf isn't too tight around your neck. Done.

I got this idea from one of my vintage book of various scarf knots. I've never seen anyone else wear a scarf like this, so if you do try this out please send me the link!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vintage Novels {Casino Royale}

Since I've been blogging about spy spoofs and television this month, I thought that it would only be fair to also write about an Ian Fleming novel, especially since I'd never read one before.

Le Chiffre is the treasurer of a Soviet-backed trade union in France and is at Royale in order to win at baccarat so that he can replace the money that he embezzled and lost before the Soviets find out and sends someone from SMERSH to kill him. 007 is send to defeat Le Chiffre, since he is also an expert baccarat player, in order to provoke the Soviets to kill him. After hours of playing a rather tense game, Bond finally wins and hides the cheque in his hotel room. Le Chiffre is rather sore at having been left broke and so captures Bond and his beautiful, but emotionally unstable assistant, Vesper Lynd and has them brought to a remote house in the country. During the harrowing torture scene involving a carpet beater (the most difficult chapter to read in the book), a SMERSH agent arrives and kills Le Chiffre, but not Bond because he had no orders to. During the three weeks spent recovering in hospital, Bond questions why he remains at the agency and falls in love with Vesper. They go on holiday together and Bond considers quitting and settling down with Vesper, until her dishonesty, misery and terror of a man with an eye patch who's following them get the better of her. She commits suicide and leaves a note explaining that she was a double agent and her reason for working with the Soviets. Bond is upset and angry at first, but quickly regains his cold, unemotional state.
I had a great deal of trouble making my way through this book. Although it is thrilling to read, it lacked any humour to counter the number of bodies piling up. I also didn't like Bond, who was ruthless and calculating and concerned about getting the job done properly and quickly and didn't even make witty one-liners like Sean Connery did. However, my brother loves reading the Bond novels, so this type of thriller might just be a guy thing.
Some male authors tend to gloss over clothing descriptions, particularly of the female characters. However, Fleming is marvellous in describing Vesper's outfits. He's very precise in noting her outfits, particularly a black velvet non New Look Dior (aren't Fifties' velvet dresses just about one of the hardest things to find nowadays) and he details everything that she's wearing, down to the accessories, almost mathematically. But this lack of flowery language does allow one to imagine the scene in greater detail. And Bond's reactions to Vesper's outfits do give the best insight into his character and his attitude towards women, but only if you're into fashion.
I haven't seen the new movie version, or the remake as I call it, and I don't think that I'll ever get around to it, but I did read the Wikipedia summary and I have one or two problems with it. Firstly, Bond does not go around killing anything that moves, since he does spend a great deal of the book feeling guilty about the people that he's killed so far and questioning why he still works as a spy and wondering if there's a right and a wrong side in the post-war world (forgetting that he's doing his duty and he would be in the same position if me had been born in Russia) and he almost feels sad that Le Chiffre is dead, in spite of that bit with the carpet beater. Secondly, I don't like that the Americans change everything from Soviets to just terrorists or whoever it is that they're fighting at the moment. Couldn't they have just changed it, if they didn't want to set the story during the Cold War, to a vague international organization of evil and used some outrageous accents to lighten the mood. Thirdly, the card game is switched to poker, rather than baccarat which the 1967 film keeps. The game between Bond and Le Chiffre is very exciting to read and Fleming does manage to get the reader to feel the same tension that the characters in the Casino feel and wonder who's going to win and if who's going to get killed or bankrupt first. A lot of people nowadays don't know how to play baccarat, which is a game that requires intelligence and great skill at bluffing, but the book explains it using very simple language and it could be explained in a film in under two minutes. I've read the passage about baccarat a couple of times and I understand it more then I know the various hands in poker.
If you've read the book and seen the new movie, what do you think of how they compare?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Classic Television {The Saint}

Simon Templar was originally created in the 1920s and continued on for forty years in the novels of Leslie Charteris. The character has been portrayed in numerous films and television shows by a great many actors, most notably by George Sanders during the war. However, the character is best remembered in the television vehicle that turned Sir Roger Moore into a super star before he took over James Bond.
The show ran for 118 episodes between 1962 and 1969, switching to colour in 1966. Simon Templar, a.k.a. The Saint has always been something of a mystery. Nothing is known about his origins and in the novels, he is a criminal (in the Robin Hood vein) who lives by his own code of honour, which leads him to become an amateur detective and occasionally called upon by British Intelligence to take on jobs which can only be solved using his uniqueness and resources.
However, the television version of Simon Templar is even more of a mystery. He is famous for being himself and we never know if he is a criminal or a spy or a detective, since each episode is self contained and no back story is ever given. Simon is just a suave, charming, witty and sartorial swashbuckler who randomly shows up in the beginning of the episode and says "Excuse me, but my Savile Row suit and I were just passing and couldn't help but notice that you were having a spot of trouble with the counterfeiters/smuggling ring/missing whatsit/defecting important person/political unrest/assassins. Could I be of any assistance?" Cue theme music.
In addition to Simon's sartorial wardrobe (most of which is Roger Moore's own) there is also the wardrobe of this week's beautiful girl to consider. It's not as mod as some of the other '60's spy stuff was, but it is a showcase for the outfit of the everyday girl and, in the case of the wealthier ladies, has some wonderful examples of the changing fashions in gowns and jewels of the Sixties. Each episode also has many close-ups of some fabulous big (and I do mean big) hairdos and perfect eye make-up that never smudges and is still there the next morning.
The Saint is a light hearted adventure series. It's not as amusing or memorable as The Avengers or as believable as Danger Man and can occasionally parody the spy genre, but not as broadly as Get Smart. But since Simon as no assistant and only occasional superiors, he instead talks directly to the audience and includes us in this week's story. Since it's now all available on DVD, why not pick up a disc from your local rental outlet/library/torrent site and watch an episode or two. It's the perfect solution for when you want a little adventure and a wisecrack or two without having to watch too many explosions or the Cliffs of Insanity for the millionth time. If you don't know with which episode to start with, my favourite is The Queen's Ransom, which has a lot of witty banter, a bright pink coat and a rather wicked little old lady.

I had a great deal of trouble finding a clip on YouTube, which leads me to believe that the series isn't that well known among computer-savvy young people. Here is a trailer for the home video release.
And I finally found a clip:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {The Silencers}

I had a great deal of trouble deciding on which one of the many spy-spoofs to end February with and finally picked The Silencers from 1966 for two reasons:
First, Cyd Charisse sings and dances to the title song.
Second, Dean Martin plays Matt Helm, the semi-retired agent who now works as a fashion photographer. I've never understood the fuss about Jerry Lewis as I've always thought that Dean Martin was the funny one. Anyway, Matt Helm is basically Dean Martin as a spy. Plus, he is the only spy in which we hear his thoughts, in the form of his hit songs.
Matt Helm lives in California in a large house which has lots of gadgets, the most important of which is a circular bed which tips the sleeper into the bath in the mornings.
This is Lovey Kravezit, Matt Helm's back scrubber, secretary and answering service. I can't decide who has more fun- the audience or Dean Martin with the script.

The evil organization this time is called Big O, headed by Tung-Tze. Big O's plot to take over the world is called Operation Fallout, which is essentially fun with nuclear weapons.
Matt Helm doesn't want to help out the agency as he has a photo shoot do to in Mexico. Fortunately, Big O thinks that he is involved and so send an agent to kill him.
Matt Helm's old partner Tina (Daliah Lavi) shows up in time to shoot the enemy agent. I love the big bow on her suit,
and her cute, yet practical holster.
Let's have a look at Matt Helm's uncomplicated spy gear:
There's a camera that shoots knives
And his bullet-proof station wagon, which includes two separate bedrooms. I think that this is the best car that a spy could have since no one would suspect it, whereas an Aston-Martin armed to the teeth simply screams "Look at me! A spy drives me!"
There's also a clever gun which kills the shooter.
And the buttons on his jacket are actually grenades.
Anyway, Matt and Tina go to a certain hotel in Phoenix and quickly find the bar.
We also meet Gail (Stella Stevens) in a bathing suit that simply isn't made anymore.
Gail is a klutz and not the brightest crayon in the box. Remember, blonde isn't a hair colour, it's a state of mind.
That evening, Matt and Tina are in the night club to observe the hand-over of a computer tape by a corrupt scientist that essential for Operation Fallout.
And who should they see but Gail, in a pretty LBD, on a date with an enemy agent.
The hand-over is to be made through Cyd Charisse during her act, however she is working against Big O and for the Government.
But the Big O agents figure this out and shoot her on stage in front of too many witnesses. And who should reach her first and take the computer tape but Gail.

Gail doesn't believe that Matt is working for the Government or the significance of the computer tape. But that could be because Matt has an unorthodox way of searching her for the computer tape.
Matt and his boss just can't figure out if she's working for Big O or if she's just plain dumb. So Matt takes her along on a road trip to San Juan, where the HQ of Big O is.
Along the way there's the inevitable car chase along the lonely desert road.
Fortunately, the station wagon also comes with it's own liquor store. Don't you just love Gail's chic travelling suit? If you're going to save the world, you might as well do it in style and have fun doing it.
Gail still isn't sure about what's going on and so tries to escape during the dark and stormy night and ruins her hair and her white suit.
But by morning in San Juan, her set is back to normal perfection. After all, it is a movie and not real life.
This is the trouble with small towns, everyone seems to be an enemy agent.
And so Matt and Gail are captured
and are taken to Big O headquarters. But really, this could be any HQ of any diabolical leader of an evil organization of evil, since they all live in the same paper mache underground lair.
Aw, Tina is actually a double agent and second-in-command of Big O. Anyone else think that her jump suit looks a lot like the one from Grease?
And this is her room, done in the style of Cave-Dweller Barbie.
Look who's figured out how to use the backwards gun. Unlike other dumb blondes, she does fight her way out and doesn't scream, faint or get recaptured.
Meanwhile, Matt Helm (Dean Martin barely uses a stunt double) is left to fight off everyone and outwit the rather clumsy laser device operated by Tung-Tze.
This is the master switch that controls the nuclear missile, it's so easy to use and labelled in big letters.
So, how does Dean Martin save the world, escape from Big O
and make his way to the happy ending? Well, you'll just have to watch it and keep your ear out for the cameo by Mr. Sinatra and also find out why Dino has to wear a hilarious poncho:

I couldn't find the trailer or any funny scenes, but her is a clip show someone made in celebration of Elmer Bernstein's fantastic musical score: