Sunday, October 31, 2010

How To Watch Silent Movies

Buster Keaton

Because I watched The Thief of Bagdad when I was four, it has never occured to me that some may find it difficult to watch silent movies. Sure, we've all watched the occasional silent on fast forward, but who hasn't? Especially when it's overdue. Silent movies, like the Talkies, can range from absolute drek to some of the most exquiset forms of art created in the 20th Century.
The most important thing about the Silents is that they are the only international language. As Norma Desmound said "We had faces!", that is human expressions and actions are truly universal, whether you live in New York, Tokyo or Timbuktu. All you need to do is change the inter titles. Silents gave us the concept of the celebrity and the household name who didn't wear a crown. Just look at the newsreel footage of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks' honeymoon/publicity tour being mobbed in Soviet Moscow!
So, if you don't live somewhere where you don't have access to a movie palace (and they were palaces) and an orchestra that regularly shows Silents, here are some easy steps to accustom yourself to watching Silents without hitting fast forward:

1. Start by watching a talking picture about silent movies. Singin' in the Rain and Chaplin are both good places to start. So is Mel Brooks' Silent Movie or anything by Guy Maddin.

2. Next, watching documentaries of silent films is very good, as they show clips of important movies. Obviously the best one is Kevin Brownlow's Hollywood: The Pioneers, which has intervies with everyone who made silent films or was in silent films (and Fairbanks Jr. is in there too) who was still alive in the 70's. If you can't find that series, try watching (or downloading) the documentaries that Paul Merton made this year on early fantastical cinema and the silent and early talkies that Hitchcock made in Britain. Mr. Merton also made an absolutely marvelous documentary series called Silent Clowns about Keaton, Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy. There are also a number of biographies of various silent stars, like Louise Brooks and Clara Bow, that are more widely available on DVD.

3. Have you done steps one and two? Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Now we can start watching silent shorts. These comedy shorts are done by masters of their craft (I'm partial to Buster Keaton) and all of them are probabily the funniest things you've seen this month. And a lot of them are available for your viewing pleasure on the internet because of public domain. Yay!!! Try starting with these ones:

4. Now you that you've slowly eased yourself into watching silents, you are ready for the feature presentation. Start with comedies that are just under an hour long and slowly increase the length, while progressing from comedy to more dramatic works. You're choice of comedies is entirely up to personal comedy preference, however if I may, I would like to suggest these non-comedies which are some of the greatest films ever made:
-Pandora's Box
-Thief of Bagdad
-The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (can't be fast forwarded)
-The Wind
-Metropolis (by a miracle, now in it's complete original form)
-Limelight (the only comedy which will make you cry at the end and shows why Chaplin was a master of pathos an a sheer genius)

There you have it. An easy step by step guide to accustomize yourself to watching Silents. You may not be ready to watch anything by D.W. Griffith or Cecil B. DeMill (people actually died while making his Silents), overly long melodramas, or Erich Von Stoheim's Greed (they've only found a quarter of his nearly 10 hour masterpiece, but I think that it's the greatest film made so far. Citizen Kane is brilliant, but nothing compared to this) but at least you will be able to watch the funniest, saddest, most romantic, tragic and generally some of the most awesome films ever made. I thank you for your time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Daily Outfit

30 Oct 10

Skirt: vintage
Shirt: vintage
Cardigan: thrifted and I embroidered it. Used to look like this.
Belt: thrifted
Tights: Hue
Shoes: Börn

Detail -30 Oct 10

I can't do Hallowe'en this year. I get to write an 8-10 page paper on the problem of nihilism for early Monday morning, while keeping my angry cat inside and away from fireworks. Yay! Maybe next year I'll finally go and see Rocky Horror live.
Like most vintage enthusiasts, I don't really feel the need to dress up, since by the standards of super-casual Vancouver, I do that everyday.
"Are you going to a party"
"But you're wearing a skirt and have that whole Fifties thing going on"
This is how I dress everyday.
Actually the comment I most receive is "You look awesome" which is very nice to hear.

I also do find it difficult to think of an original costume that doesn't cost very much or I can make myself. However, using what I already own, I realized that I could dress up as Margot Tenebaum, Maude (as in Harold and), Little Edie, Emma Pillsbury or what I wore last year, without looking that much different. Maybe by next Hallowe'en I'll have thought of something brilliant, like Dita wearing jeans and a fake tan. Except I don't own jeans.

By the way, I spent tonight adding a screen caps tag to all of the movies which I have screen capped, to make them easier to find.

However, what Hallowe'en would be complete without these two Gothic legends:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {Cat Ballou}

Picture 13
From 1965, it's the Oscar winning Cat Ballou, which is set in 1894, thirty years after almost all Westerns. Remember that.
Picture 22
Jane Fonda plays Cat Ballou. Why is she sewing in jail at the beginning of the film?
Picture 9
For the answer the wandering troubadours (Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole) will sing us into a flash back.
Picture 30
A few weeks ago, Catherine Ballou had just finished her teacher training at a girl's school back east and her prim teacher placed her on a train next to a preacher.
Picture 35
Uncle Jed isn't really a preacher. He's trying to help his nephew/business partner to escape custody. Also, he's a little drunk.
Picture 38
This is the nephew, Clay Boone, a cattle rustler. But Cat doesn't know that and thinks that he's a notorious criminal.
Picture 39
But she does help him escape.
Picture 46
When she gets to her father's ranch in Wolf City, she discovers that a corporation is trying to drive him off his land.
Picture 51
Jackson Two Bears is the only one who sticks by her father and agrees to help Cat to save the ranch, somehow.
Picture 54
Lee Marvin plays Tim Strawn, the gunman the corporation has hired to kill Frankie Ballou. Looks good and evil, doesn't he.
Picture 57
I love that dress. At the country ball, she sees just how much the town hates him for holding onto his land and preventing Wolf City from being turned into an actual city.
Picture 61
Guess who they ran into at the ball and guess who Cat invites back to the ranch thinking that they will protect her father?
Picture 69
Jackson suggests hiring a gunman of their own, so she writes to Kid Shelleen, the greatest gun fighter ever!
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Only problem is that that was thirty years ago and Kid (also Lee Marvin, who won an Oscar) is now a falling down drunk.
Picture 82
Fortunately, he's a functioning alcoholic. Kind of.
Picture 88
But while Kid is recovering from travelling, Tim Strawn kills Frankie Ballou.
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Only the sheriff swears that Tim never left that chair in town all afternoon.
Picture 104
When Cat returns to the ranch, she discovers that she's been evicted. That corporation sure does moves fast.
Picture 114
There's only one thing to do. Put on a gingham shirt and pants and ride off to hide with the Hole in the Wall gang while she thinks of a plan to get revenge against Wolf City.
Picture 122
But since this is set thirty years after Westerns, the Wild West is over and people no longer view gun fighters, robbers and cowboys as heroes. Which is why Butch Cassidy now runs the saloon in Hole-in-the-Wall, wants to stay out of trouble and looks nothing like Paul Newman.
Picture 130
Clay, Jed and Jackson want to rustle cattle but Cat has a better idea. Naturally they should rob a train. But not just any train, the train carrying the corporation's pay roll and use Kid's plan from when he was at the top of his game. Kid thinks it's a great idea.
Picture 138

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They clearly aren't a bunch of hardened criminals, but they manage to rob the train without killing anyone. Yay!
Picture 171
Slight problem. Butch Cassidy is upset that they robbed the train, because now Wolf City will come after the Hole in the Wall gang, who just want to live a simple life. And there wont be any new jobs in Wolf City, due to a lack of a pay roll. Unlike straight Westerns, Comedy Westerns do show the repercussions for seeking revenge before the end of the picture.
Picture 175
Then, there is the other problem. Clay and Jackson are both in love with Cat. But this is still 1965.
Picture 179

Picture 183
And then Tim shows up and does the traditional villain speech of if you weren't a girl, yadda yadda yadda.
Picture 191
There's only one way to stop Tim: take a bath.
Picture 208
Then, put on a really snazzy outfit and head into town sober.
Picture 219
So, Lee Marvin finally meets the stand-in Lee Marvin. Guess what the shocking plot twist is.
Picture 233
Meanwhile, Cat finds a gorgeous dress in the middle of now where and heads into town to have a "talk" with the head if the corporation. Now guess why she's in jail.
Picture 260
How will Cat escape this foreboding shot?
Well, it has to do with these two drunks:
Picture 253

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blogiversary Giveaway


Well, last Sunday marked the one year anniversary of my blog. And so after 66 outfits, 37 vintage books reviewed, 45 movies screen capped and almost 200 posts, here is the traditional Blogiversary Giveaway.


Included are a polyester Japanese scarf from the Sixties, a souvenir coin purse from the Philippines, an unopened pair of seamless mesh stockings and this embroidery of a jitterbugging couple. That I made. I even framed it. She reminded me of Betty Grable in Down Argentine Way and He reminded me of Archie Goodwin dancing at the Flamingo Club. Yes, I can combine film and literary characters. You can see detail shots here and here.

Anyone can enter. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me your favourite whatever. Book, movie, season, word, time of day, TV show, breakfast cereal, you know whatever. Want to enter again? Mention the givewaway on your blog, twitter or facebook thing and leave another comment(s) with the link. Easy.
Giveaway will be open for two weeks and the winner will be chosen by random number on the 7th of November at around midnight-ish Pacific.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cinema Tuesdays {Support Your Local Gunfighter}

Picture 1
Made two years after last week's film is this semi-sequel with the same star and supporting cast. It's not as good as Sheriff, but it's still good.
Picture 8
This time James Garner plays Bret Maverick Latigo Smith, a slick New York con man working his way across the West. Right now he's on his way to Denver to marry Goldie, who's a madam.
Picture 36
In Purgatory Colorado, two rival mine owners keep the town up 24 hours a day trying to reach the mother lode first. Harry Morgan plays Tyler Barton, who can't use his mine because the Colonel, the other mine owner, has hired gunmen to prevent Barton's workers from digging. Barton has found out that the Colonel has hired the notorious Swifty Morgan and he's hanging around the station to get to Swifty first.
Picture 52
He also has his hands full with his daughter Patience, as played by Suzanne Pleshette before she was Emily Hartley. As with Prudy last week "puberty hit her hard". Patience spends her time not wearing a dress, shooting up the town and dreaming about leaving this lousy town and going to Miss Hunter's College on the Hudson River New York for Young Ladies of Good Family, if only her dad could make enough money to send her.
Picture 71
Guess who Barton thinks this stranger is?
Picture 75
Rag rolls and a nifty robe.
Picture 102
Latigo also makes friends with Jack Elam, who is of course playing the town drunk, named Jug.
Picture 128
Latigo has to stay in Purgatory for a few days because the Doctor is trying to figure out if he can remove that tattoo. Kids, don't get tattooed while drunk and never get tattooed with someone's name, particularly someone you're not serious about or else you'll end up like Latigo.
Picture 154
Latigo has this funny obsession. Every so often he bets all of his money on 23. He knows that roulette is a game for suckers and idiots, but he does it anyway.
Picture 173
So, Latigo has to go back to work. He goes and tells a sob story to Jenny, the local madam/saloon keeper and played by the fabulous Joan Blondell.
Picture 190

Picture 201
He's very good at his job and by the next morning she's buying him a hat.
Picture 215
Problem is that Barton has told the local gunfighters that Swifty Morgan looks like Latigo Smith.
Picture 235
A meeting of the town council decides to hire Swifty away from the Colonel.
Picture 245
Meanwhile, Patience decides that the the only way for her father to get rich so that she can go to Miss Hunter's College on the Hudson River New York for Young Ladies of Good Family is to blow up Latigo, with the help of her father's girlfrind, who's also the sister of the Colonel.
Picture 256
Interesting how they put the hero in black and the villain is in very light grey.
Picture 273
What terrible wallpaper!
Picture 291
Meanwhile, the town council have caught up with Latigo and offered him a large sum of money. It appears the council was mistaken, he's not Swifty Morgan. He's only Swifty's business manager. He's Swifty Morgan.
Picture 296
Sure, Swifty can't draw his gun, but he doesn't have to do but look tough.
Picture 308
After Latigo's been payed, he finds out that the Doc's drunk and then he gets that funny feeling again.
Picture 325

Picture 349
But his relationship with Patience is going along nicely. She's even wearing clothes and has stopped trying to kill him.
Picture 390
Meanwhile, Barton starts work on his mine and the Colonel kidnaps him until Barton agrees to stop work. So, it's up to Latigo to talk his way out of this.
Picture 382
It appears that the Colonel has a bit of the Napoleon complex.
Picture 405
Meanwhile, it appears that Goldie and Jenny are best friends. You know what this means.
Picture 424
Picture 433
During the fight, Patience discovers the tattoo and now they can't get married and go on a picnic.
Picture 478
The Colonel also knows that Jug isn't Swifty and he's sent for the real Swifty Morgan and blows up Barton's shaft. Time to leave town.
Picture 499

Picture 517
Problem is that Jug wants to stay behind and fight Swifty and Latigo is too honest to leave his friend behind.
Picture 521
Meanwhile, Swifty has caught the express train and everyone gathers on Main Street to watch the fight.
Picture 548

Picture 550

Picture 553
Fortunately Latigo is smart, which is why he's on a donkey loaded with dynamite.
Picture 567
"Now the way this story ends..."

It's up on YouTube in ten parts and you can watch the trailer here.