Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween 2011

Well today is October 31st, and we all know what that means! It's Halloween! I know this holiday has many meanings, but to me it is a time to see fun costumes and watch scary movies. The spiritual side and what not doesn't interest me one bit.

So along with Betty Grable, Judy Garland, and Joan Crawford... Blame Mame wishes everyone a Happy Halloween!

Judy is frightened by the witches brew!

Joan loves the festivities!

Betty is surprised by the scary stories!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Photos | Stars With Their Cameras

Before I continue with the post, I just wanted to point out that the side bar looks a little different [points to the right]. I have added some things, changed some things, and even removed some things. I would like to give a shout out to the three blogs featured on the side bar for their upcoming Blogathons [For The Boys - Hosted by The Scarlett Olive, Dueling Divas - Hosted by Backlots, Humphrey Bogart - Hosted by Forever Classics]. I love Blogathons!

So in my real life I work in a camera shop as a photographer and sales person, so it goes without saying that I love photography. I grew up with disposable film cameras and never had the chance to enjoy the experience of a manual film camera. I've recently acquired a few and I love them. I was excited to find pictures of some of my favorite Classic Hollywood stars using these great cameras... and even a few using old movie film cameras. Two of my favorite things, cameras and Classic Hollywood... sounds like a fun post!


Joan Crawford

Norma Shearer

Cary Grant

Bette Davis

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Film | Holiday (1938)

A few weeks ago I sat down for what I called a "Grantburn" double-feature. I have already written about the first film, Bringing Up Baby (which you can see here), and here we have the second... 1938's Holiday. And guess what?!? This is the 75th post on Blame Mame!

HOLIDAY (1938)

"If you had a million... 
which sister would you pick to spend it with?"

Cary Grant as Johnny Case
Katharine Hepburn as Linda Seton
Doris Nolan as Julia Seton
Lew Ayres as Ned Seton

Engaged to wealthy Julia Seton (Doris Nolan), freethinker Johnny Case (Cary Grant) discovers that her family wants to remake him into their idea of the perfect son-in-law -- and he's beginning to consider compromising his values. But as he gets to know Julia's headstrong sister (Katharine Hepburn), he realizes he has more in common with her. [Netflix]

I thought the scene where Johnny first comes into the 'play room' to chat with Linda, was quite charming. The sparks between the lead characters jumped off the screen. I especially liked when Linda was explaining which toys belonged to which sibling and talks about how the giraffe looked like her... I actually thought they did resemble each other.


Although Katharine Hepburn won praise for her portrayal as the repressed rich girl, she was overlooked more than once for the role of Linda Seton. When the play appeared on Broadway, Hepburn was the understudy for the role and when the original 1930 film was cast, she was overlooked in favor of Ann Harding. I also found it interesting that Katharine also used a scene from this film for her first screen test that won, that led to her first film role in A Bill of Divorcement. It seems she was destined to play this part at some point in her career.

I thought the film was beautifully directed, as most George Cukor films are. I have never noticed how many of my favorite films were part of his long list of directed films. He really was a 'woman's director'. He brought out amazing performances from all of the women he worked with. I look forward to seeing his other collaborations with Hepburn (A Bill of Divorcement, Sylvia Scarlett, Adams Rib) because she was so likeable in this film. She was the actress I loved in The Philadelphia Story and not the grating women I saw in Suddenly, Last Summer. I will definitely be checking out those other films soon.

And I just couldn't do a review of a Cary Grant film without commenting on how wonderful an actor I think he was. He was so likeable and even though he was playing against type, he portrayed Johnny with a lot of heart.

There was also a magnificent supporting cast on this film. You had Edward Horton and Jean Dixon as The Potters, Johnny's long time friends who want him to go after his dreams and not the dreams of his fiance. I really felt their characters truly loved Johnny and wanted only the best for him. Their reactions when first walking into the engagement party were the best... especially when the butler took his dress shoe off along with the snow boot. 


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Film | 10 Things To Learn From How To Marry A Millionaire

The other night I sat down to watch 1948's The Red Shoes [I now know it is on Instant Play] only to find Netflix sent me another damaged disc. I sat there for a few minutes starring in disbelief and then decided to watch another film. Oddly, the first film to come to mind was 1953's How To Marry a Millionaire starring Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall. Maybe not that odd, but a random thought because I hadn't seen it in quite a few years.

After watching the film over two days, I decided to not do one of my typical film reviews. I recently seen reviews for this film on other blogs, so what could I say that hasn't been said recently. And so here we have my post for this film... 10 Things To Learn From How To Marry A Millionaire. A few months ago, I did a similar post for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes that you can see here. It truly is pure coincidence that they are both pictures starring Monroe.

If you have seen this film before, you may have caught up on these clever ladies' ideas on 'how to marry a millionaire.' If you haven't seen the film and want a few pointers on capturing your own 'bear' and other thoughts on life from Loco, Pola, and Schatze... keep reading.

► Most women use more brains picking a horse in the third at Belmont than they do picking a husband.

► Gentlemen callers have got to wear a necktie!

► There is no such person as Mr Cadillac

► Gentlemen you meet on the cold cuts may not be as attractive as the one you meet in the mink department at Bergdorf's.

► When ordering things not under $5 a portion, ask the waiter to bring the leftovers home 'for the dog.'

► You are likely NOT to marry a millionaire in a walk-up on Amsterdamn Avenue.

► Nobody's mother lives in Atlantic City on Saturday.

► Men aren't attentive to girls who wear glasses.

► Wealthy men are never old.

► If you don't marry him, you haven't caught him, he's caught you.

Bonus Lesson
► The word 'creamy' can be used to describe things that are pleasant. [ie. 'I saw a picture in Harper's Bazaar of a mountain shack. It was creamy.']

There it is... if you follow these rules you will be as likely as the films leading ladies at finding yourself a millionaire. This picture is so fun to watch. You get beautiful Travilla gowns, gorgeous Technicolor, and breathtaking Cinemascope [this was the first film made using this filming process]. Another thing to remember while watching this film is that it was one of the great Betty Grable's last films. She retired from motion pictures shortly after.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Photos | On Set: All About Eve

Here is another edition of the 'on set' photo series. This time it comes from the set of the 1950 picture All About Eve. I must say it, it is quite a photo...

In one photo, you get some of Hollywood greatest actors: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Marilyn Monroe, Celeste Holm, George Sanders, and Gery Merrill. I never noticed that Monroe is the only one not wearing a dark color. I wonder if that was done on purpose? Maybe to make her stand out in this very small early role?

Something I have always thought about is how different this film would have been without Bette Davis. She was not the first choice to play the role of Margot Channing.  Greats such as Tallulah Bankhead, Susan Hayward, Marlene Dietrich were early considerations for the role. Claudette Colbert was actually cast in the role, but had to pull out after a back injury on another film. In my mind, All About Eve is actually 'all about Bette Davis'.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Film | Bringing Up Baby (1938)

On one of my many trips to Barnes and Noble, I picked up two Grant/Hepburn films, Holiday and this film... 1938's Bringing Up Baby. Shortly after that I had a perfect time to watch them... a lazy Sunday with all the windows open to let the cool breeze in, and nothing else to do. I sat down for my 'Grantburn' double-feature and never enjoyed two films more!

"There's a leopard on your roof and it's my leopard and I have to get it and to get it I have to sing."-- Susan Vance [Katharine Hepburn]

Katharine Hepburn as Susan Vance
Cary Grant as Dr. David Huxley (alias Mr. Bone)

Love runs wild for a hapless scientist and an unstoppable heiress in Howard Hawks's classic screwball comedy that ranks high on the American Film Institute's list of the funniest Hollywood films ever made. With her eye on paleontologist David (Cary Grant), heiress Susan (Katharine Hepburn) lures him to her home. But the hilarity begins when Susan's dog steals David's prize dinosaur bone and her pet leopard, Baby, is mistaken for a zoo escapee. [Netflix]

Though this entire movie was hilarious, there were a few scenes where I found myself literally laughing out loud. The scene where Susan is talking to David on the phone trying to persuade him to come help her with her newly acquired leopard was quite funny. Being the graceful walker that she is, Susan trips over a table causing quite a ruckus. David thinks she is being attacked by the leopard (with a little help from Susan's fibbing) and rushes to help her... also tripping in his house.

The other part of the film I still laugh about when I think about it is when Susan and David are in search for the missing leopard. They come to a stream and David asks Susan if the stream is shallow enough to walk through. She insists it is so shallow that they can wade across. So the two set across only to find the water is deeper than they are tall. So funny to watch them fall straight down into the water. Haha!

And we can't forget about the dinner scene where Grant and Hepburn find them selves 'exposed' to everyone in the dining room. Susan grabs for David's jacket, ripping it down the back. After a pretty severe talking to by David for ruining his night, Susan goes to walk away. The only problem is that David was standing on her gown and as she walks away... she leaves without the back of her dress. The funny part comes when David is trying to convince Susan something is wrong, but she doesn't believe him. And when she does realize all of her assets are on display, it gets even better!

Bringing Up Baby did so poorly at the box-office that Howard Hawks was fired from his next RKO production and Katharine Hepburn was bought out of her contract and was soon after labeled 'box-office poison.' I simply do not understand how this film did so badly, it is one of the funniest films I have ever seen. Luckily it has grown into more favorable views since it was released in 1938. The American Film Institute even added this film to its list of the 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.

I thought Katharine Hepburn was hysterical in this picture, I was surprised to find out she came into this role with no comedic background. She was trained by Howard Hawks on her timing and gags. While Hepburn needed training, Cary Grant [whose character was modeled after silent film star Harold Lloyd] came well equipped with his own comedic talents.

Baby the leopard wasn't the only animal to cause chaos for David and Susan. Cary Grant's previous co-star in The Awful Truth, Skippy the dog, had his own paw in on the madness. After he steals David'd priceless fossil, the search for where he buried the bone leads to a few laughs. Skippy also starred in The Thin Man as Asta.

Watching this film only furthered my love for Cary Grant. Every single film I have seen him in has never let me down. He can be funny (VERY funny) or dramatic... and still make you want to see more. His personality demands your attention and his comedic timing is perfect.

Until seeing this film, I never thought much of Katharine Hepburn, but her performance in this film won me over. I am pretty sure I will enjoy more of her early films over her later ones. She was charming and funny. I was glad I had just bought Holiday on DVD as well because I wanted to see more of her.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Film | To Catch A Thief

A few weeks ago, I was able to check out another film in the local theater's Classic Series and this one was probably my favorite. It was 1955's Hitchcock thriller To Catch A Thief. It is so amazing to see a movie like this for the first time on the big screen. There is nothing like sitting in a darkened theater watching wonderful actors, with gorgeous gowns, visiting breathtaking locations in an amazing film.

As you read this post, you will notice the new layout of my film review posts. Sometimes I keep writing and the thoughts do not align correctly, so this way I can keep on track. There is also a new rating system at the bottom... each film will earn one to give film cans. Five being the best of course.


"For a moment he forgets he's a thief
--and she forgets she's a lady!"

Cary Grant as John Robie
Grace Kelly as Frances Stevens
Jessie Royce Landis as Jessie Stevens
John Williams as H. H. Hughson
Charles Vanel as Bertani
Brigitte Auber as Danielle Foussard

Suspected in a new series of gem heists in the luxury hotels of the French Riviera, reformed jewel thief John Robie (Cary Grant) sets out to clear himself -- and catch the real thief -- with the help of pampered heiress Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly). Robie's plan backfires, but Frances, who believes him guilty, proves her love by helping him escape, and the real criminal is exposed in a spine-tingling climax. [Netflix]

In the film, there is a car chase scene where Grace Kelly takes Cary Grant on a ride through the mountains that gets your heart racing. Watching the chase pursue, you get the idea that Kelly knows exactly why they are fleeing from the police and that hunch is confirmed once they reach their picnic destination. When they reach their picnic area, Kelly reveals she knows who Grant really is... and proceeds to tell him how she put it all together. I found Grace Kelly quite charismatic in this scene. Her performance really shows how clever her character thinks she is for figuring it out.

A piece of my favorite dialogue from this scene was the improvised chit-chat where Kelly asks "Do you want a leg or a breast?" and Grant responds "You make the choice."

Now there were plenty of funny coincidences that keep the police from catching them... one of which is a chicken crossing the road. The car driven by Grant and Kelly misses the chicken, but the police crash and start yelling at the chicken as the chicken just stands there not knowing the mess it caused. I found this quite amusing because that is exactly how my chickens act... completely unaware of everything.

Prior to see the film, I learned that the same road the car chase happens is the same stretch of road that Grace Kelly would meet her demise many years later. It is believed she had a stroke while driving, which cause the crash that would take her life. While that scene was my favorite in the film, knowing this gives it a bitter feeling as well.

To Catch a Thief would be Grace Kelly's final film for Hitchcock. Her career in Hollywood would end a few years later when she became Princess Grace of Monaco. At the same time, this would be Cary Grant's first film after announcing his retirement. He believed his style of acting was becoming unfavorable with method actors like Marlon Brando coming into fashion. Luckily Hitchcock was able to lure him out of his decision and he would continue acting for eleven more years.

While it was filmed in the summer of 1954, its release was delayed until 1955 because the studio thought the age difference between the lead characters didn't make for a believable romance. I think that is just silly, Grant was just as charming here as he had been 10 years earlier. It's obvious the public shared my same sentiments because the film went on to become one of the biggest hits of the decade.

Hitchcock made a cameo in most of his films, but this one was very obvious. When Grant's character boards the bus to avoid being arrested, he sits next to the director. From the films I have seen of Hitchcock's, this was his most obvious appearance.

Shot in the widescreen process Vistavision and beautiful Technicolor, To Catch A Thief was a gorgeous piece of cinema. With it's gorgeous scenic shots and Hitchcock direction, it was a lot to take in... in a good way.

Edith Head showcases why she deserved an Academy Award nomination for her designs. I didn't think it could get any better than Grace Kelly's wardrobe in Rear Window, but then came To Catch A Thief. The gorgeous designs were just as much a character as Kelly and Grant were. The scene where Kelly and Grant were going to the beach is a prime example of how beautiful her designs were... everyone in the hotel turned and couldn't keep their eyes off Grace. My favorite gown was the powder blue gown Kelly wears in her first meeting with Grant.

Ever since I became interested in Classic Hollywood, Grace Kelly had never struck me as someone I wanted to watch in a film. I had only seen her in pictures, and she just seemed stiff and boring to me. After seeing her in Rear Window awhile back and now in To Catch A Thief, I am honored to admit I was wrong. She demands your attention in every one of her scenes, even taking my attention from two of my favorite actors... James Stewart and Cary Grant. Her style of acting is witty, personable, and just plain fun to watch. I look forward to exploring more of her, in my opinion very short, filmography. I also hope that my first impressions of other stars turn out to be wrong. [ie. Ingrid Bergman]


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Birthday | Rita Hayworth

I don't normally highlight a particular star's birthday, but I couldn't help it. Monday would have been Rita Hayworth's 93rd birthday! Rita is one of my favorite actors of all time [up there with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford] and hell... one of her films inspired this blog. Her humor and dancing always make for a great movie viewing experience. So...

Happy Birthday Rita!

Here is one of my favorite Rita scenes... "Zip" from Pal Joey.

And as a side note... yesterday was also Jean Arthur and Monty Clift's birthdays as well!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Film | Reel vs Real

On November 4th, 2011, the release of a new film based on Marilyn Monroe's time in England (while filming The Price and the Showgirl) will be released. My Week With Marilyn will be just another motion picture based on the life of the stars of years gone by. This film gave me the idea to compare characters portrayed on screen by some of my favorite Classic Hollywood stars to the actual people they are based around. Not a very in depth post, but fun to see...

In the 1931 film Mata Hari, Greta Garbo plays a character loosely based on accused spy/exotic dancer Margaretha Geertruida "Grietje" Zelle. The film caused a stir in Pre-code Hollywood and became one of Garbo's most successful films... as well as popularizing the legend of Mata Hari.

In the 1939 film The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, we see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their only biographical musical/comedy. The film was based on stories of Irene Castle titled My Husband and My Memories of Vernon Castle. Castle even acted as adviser on the film and often had issues with the liberties the film was taking with her life.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Fashion | Gowns By Kalloch

One thing that stands out most to me when I watch studio era films are the costume designs. There were many influential designers from this period, some more popular then others. Fashion artist such as Edith Head and Adrian are very well known, but after watching 1938's Holiday and Bringing Up Baby I discovered a designer I hadn't yet discovered. The name next to the gowns billing? Columbia Studio's Robert Kalloch.

Designs for Holiday & Bringing Up Baby
Robert Kalloch was born in 1893 in New York City. He got his start designing gowns for New York's high-profile socialites and dancers for Lucille Ltd. He got his break in Hollywood in the early 1930's when he was hired by Harry Cohn to help improve the low-budget reputation of Columbia Pictures. 

Designs for Mrs Miniver & His Girl Friday

Robert Kalloch was one of the biggest trendsetters in Hollywood during the 1930's and 1940's. Stars such as Fay Wray and Greer Garson were lucky enough to have their sophisticated wardrobes designed by Kollach. 

Irene Dunne and Robert Kollach with designs from The Awful Truth

Simply credited with 'Gowns by Kalloch', many memorable films of that period were touched by this leader of fashion. Films such as His Girl Friday (1940), For Me and My Gal (1942), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and The Awful Truth (1937) are just a few of the iconic films he worked on. His designs can even be seen uncredited in 1934's It Happened One Night and Twentieth Century.

Wedding gown from It Happened One Night
Kalloch also gets credit for helping shape the style of Look Magazine's "Best Dressed Girl In Hollywood" of 1940, Rita Hayworth. He was the first to specially design a wardrobe for Rita as her fame was rising. He worked with Rita on such films as The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939), Angels Over Broadway (1940), The Lady In Question (1940), You'll Never Get Rich (1941) and Only Angels Have Wings (1939). 

Designs for Angels Over Broadway, You'll Never Get Rich, & Lone Wolf Spy Hunt

As you can see Robert Kalloch stayed quite busy in his short time in Hollywood.

Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in designs from Babes On Broadway

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Film | Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

Sitting down to watch Dance, Girl Dance, I wasn't sure what I was in for. All I knew was that it was about the ups and downs of a group of ladies trying to make a living with their dancing skills. It turned out to be quite a good film. I enjoyed the dynamic between O'Hara and Ball's characters. The two were complete opposites, but still understood each other despite the back handing that happened.

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

"Heartbreak Behind Gayety of a Girly-Girl Show! "

Maureen O'Hara as Judy O'Brien
Louis Hayward as James 'Jimmy' Harris Jr.
Lucille Ball as Bubbles/Tiger Lily White
Virginia Field as Elinor Harris
Ralph Bellamy as Steve Adams

Aspiring ballerina Judy O'Brien (Maureen O'Hara) dances with a struggling but respected company. Shortly after a fellow dancer, the man-hungry Bubbles (Lucille Ball), quits, the troupe disbands. Bubbles hires Judy for her new burlesque show, but their act may be torn apart when they both fall for Lothario Jimmy Harris (Louis Hayward) [Netflix]

As I looked this film up online after watching it, I learned that it was directed by Dorothy Arzner. Arzner was one of the very few female directors in the studio system. She would also direct such films as the Katharine Hepburn film Christopher Strong (1933) and the Joan Crawford film The Bride Wore Red (1937). Arzner was brought in after shooting started because the original director quit due to a lack of story in the film. Dorothy had to redo the entire film and it was she who brought in the art vs commercial aspect between Ball and O'Hara.

With it's mix of backstage drama, romance, and rivalry the film was hard to market to the masses. Upon its release the film lost over $400,000 for RKO because it was universally panned by critics and audiences. Luckily the film has grown into favor over the years, as one of the earliest influences on the feminist movement. In 2007, the picture was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Here we find Lucille Ball in her first starring role as the vivacious dancer Bubbles. While her character is setup to be beautiful, glamorous, and has all the men chasing after her, Ball is able to convey the inner insecurity that lies just below the surface. It is the insecurity that makes Bubbles want everything that all of her friends have, even if it is a man. Ball changed her auburn hair to blonde and spent quite a bit of time in New York burlesque shows preparing for this role. Which is probably why the able to do such a good job at the hula.

The other major player in this film was Maureen O'Hara who plays ballet loving Judy. After losing her mentor to a tragic accident Judy also loses her will to better her dancing. With her dreams dashed she even accepts the job of Bubbles' stooge. But toward the end of the film, she builds enough self-esteem to let those peeping toms who go to the burlesque know what they really are. Maureen delivers a speech those almost seems to be directed at the movie audience. It sorts of pokes at the industries exploitation of women to make a buck.

A great film, that is worth seeing again and again. If you want a taste of of this film is all about, look up Ball's hula on YouTube. In this clip you see the Bubbles out do Judy by using her bumps and grinds to win the job they are dancing for, while the quiet Judy watches on.