Tag Archives: Jimmy Stewart

Donna Reed: It’s A Wonderful Actress

3 Dec

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This is the time of year I’m reminded of how wonderful Donna Reed is. You know, the romantic lead opposite Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s seminal IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The black & white film is always playing on some channel virtually night and day from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It’s a classic to be sure, but that’s not the real reason it oversaturates the airwaves during the holiday season – or at least used to. That’s because the movie fell into the public domain for several decades when some studio nincompoop didn’t renew the copyright. Networks and cable stations could therefore play the film without having to pay residuals and royalties – and the movie and it’s classic characters became as commonplace if not more nourishing than fruit cake. However, the real feast for the eyes will forever be Donna…Donna Reed.

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Donna Reed had that all-American sweetheart look that everyone but George Bailey seemed to see, until it was too late for him to escape Bedford Falls. But really, how could anyone NOT fall in love with Donna – especially when she had been on the hunt for good ole’ George since High School (remember the famous dance scene where the floor divides and people start falling into the gymnasium pool?! Donna was George’s destiny and she would stick with him for better or worse, through thick and thin until the very end when Zuzu’s petals would magically reappear in his vest pocket. Talk about bygone days. If Frank Capra were alive today – the movie might not have ended so happily. But what makes the film so timeless is the love story itself. Because if Donna weren’t the amazing actress she was – it would not nearly be so believable that Jimmy Stewart would feel like he lost everything worth living and dying for when she doesn’t recognize after Clarence the Angel is so good to show George what it would be like if he’d never been born. Then again, Donna Reed as an old maid is a stretch. Probably the hottest old maid ever portrayed on film IMHO.

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Donna Reed went on to have a respectable career on film and her very own TV show, THE DONNA REED SHOW, on on of television’s very first episodic shows. But that’s not why she will forever be remembered. In my house, I’ll always sit down and take time out to watch Donna say, “He’s making violent love to me, Mother!” from her living room when George inevitably visits one night to find that he has been hopelessly in love with her every since he first laid eyes on her, naked in a bush in front of her house. Me too!

Happy Holidays!

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Grace Kelly: Grace in 3 Dimensions

29 Jul

Beautiful. Graceful. Classy. Elegant. Brilliant. Grace was a glamour girl of the highest order. Her style was evergreen, never fading into trends of the past but excelling into tomorrow’s classic looks. She was a dream come true for haute couture and Hollywood. Leading men swooned when they first met her. Director fell in love. Even good old Alfred Hitchcock who couldn’t get enough of watching the star on the set of Rear Window, a movie about voyeurism.

Grace’s timing was impeccable. She came onto the silver screen scene when there was a changing of the guard. When cinematic lions such as Gary Cooper and Clark Gable were in the twilight of their careers. Both easily twice Grace’s age, they nevertheless rallied for her affections both on-screen and off. Cooper was the sheriff in High Noon who young wife (Grace) doesn’t want to see him die. Clark Gable, however, was Grace’s true-life crush on the set of Mogambo set in the jungle. Gable was a gentleman, however, and let the rising star down as easy as he could. Grace would have to console herself with future leading men – such as Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window and Cary Grant in How to Catch a Thief.

On screen, my favorite pairing was Grant and Grace. They were magical to watch, both gorgeous and on top of their game. The rapport between these two goddess made you feel like you were a voyeur. The two of them together were so much chemistry-fueled lust created when two massive stars collide. I still get shivers when I watch Grace on film. She is as glamorous in color that most stars were in black & white. I can’t imagine what she must have been like to meet in person. Maybe that’s what Hitchcock was thinking when he released Dial M for Murder in 3D when it was first released. The prospect of seeing Grace in 3 Dimensions must have driven every man, woman and child to the theaters. Hitchcock always knew how to market a movie and with Grace as his star – his job got exponentially easier.

When Grace exited the silver screen to become a true life princess, many were devastated. The world lost her to Monaco and the feeling was that Grace left in her prime. I always wonder about the movies she would have made if she’d stayed. So many more chances to bask in the glow of the most beautiful blonde the silver screen had ever seen in color. Grace was an amazing actress, even more than a fashion icon. She straddled both worlds so well and would utilize both her talents when transitioning to the private, luxurious world of royalty. But I fear she did it too soon. Realizing too late there was more that she could have accomplished had she not stepped into a guilded cage.  At least that’s my take on her, especially in light of her later years and the horrible car crash that would take her life.

But that’s much too much reality for this blog. Here I like to dream and remember my leading ladies as I first found them. The goddesses of light that illuminated my early life and defined for me what beauty, intelligence and passion all wrapped up in the visage of a gorgeous woman could do to a mortal man. Especially upon repeat viewings. And for me, Grace was the accessible goddess – the one who would listen to you, make you smile and laugh – and if you were very, very lucky give you a memory that would last you forever. In 3D!

Jean Arthur: The Funny Blonde with Brains

22 Feb

Jean wasn’t the drop dead gorgeous leading lady I usually fell in love with as a kid. She was the funny, best friend type who found romance and love almost as an aside to the antics that took center-stage in her movie vehicles. She was tough and didn’t take any guff and only after seven reels (that’s old time movie talk for when movies where eight 10 minutes reels) did she melt into her leading man’s arms and surrender to his charms. This was the formula that worked and worked well with Jean. And no film brought out her tough-girl turned all gooey-eyed for love than “Only Angels Have Wings” opposite the formidable Cary Grant with an assist from Will Rogers and a very young (almost unrecognizable) Rita Hayworth.

The film was directed by Howard Hawks, a man’s director, who spun the story of a far outpost where the mail is flown by tiny airplanes over gargantuan mountains and cavernous chasms. The fly-by-night (literally) outfit is run by Cary in one of his serious Joker/hard customer roles that he was perfect for early in his career. In walks Jean, sparks fly initially, but then she sees the brutality of how these men live and die and decides to take a walk. But then she comes back, deciding Cary is a good man underneath. The storyline is contrived, but so well constructed and true to character that eccentricities don’t matter. Ya see, Cary had his heart broken and ever since lived by a code of honor and logic. Jean doesn’t get it until Rita walks in, then realizes what she needs to do to win over Cary. But ya see, to win over Cary you have to act like he acts, be tough and unsentimental. That’s what this script was all about from one uncompromising frame to the next – until the very end where Jean wants Cary to tell her to stay and wait for him. But Cary’s character would never do that. Instead he lets a double-headed coin do all the talking for him, and you see him take off in a plane on another dangerous mission while Jean melts on the ground.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Only Angels Have Wings” and fell head over heels for Jean in the process. She made a ton of movies in the 30’s – mostly lightweight comedies with Jimmy Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes To Washington) and Gary Cooper (Meet John Doe) but it’s with Cary that she really lets her hair down and does some of her best mugging for the camera.

Jean was beautiful, funny and accessible. She was one of the boys. The sexy, smart and ball’s out kind of dame that makes guys like me wish we lived back in those days when smart, sassy and moxie where everyday words. I’ll have to settle for watching Jean on screen and dreaming of her smile and infectious laugh that colored everything she said in a high-lilting voice. Jean’s dialogue sparkled along with her eyes, with a personal style that today’s stars would die – or pay exorbitant amounts of money – for. Reese Witherspoon is today’s Jean Arthur, only Jean had better material and equally better Leading Man material. But I’m splitting blonde hairs now. The most important thing is that funny was sexy then as much as it is now. Only smarter. And funnier. And sexier.

CINEMUSES: Kim Novak is One Pissed-Off Goddess!

10 Jan

I love Kim Novak. She is one of the most talented and beautiful of Hollywood’s Leading Ladies, not to mention Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock’s VERTIGO is a masterpiece, but would not nearly be the classic so worthy of multiple viewings if it were not for Kim. Who isn’t able to put themselves in Jimmy Stewart’s obsessive shoes watching Kim strut her stuff as Marilyn. OMG! The blonde in the grey suit is one of the most amazing femme fatales ever! And she’s not even trying to kill Jimmy, just mess with his head so much that he has to be put in an asylum! Now that’s a girl after my own heart.

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Kim came out of hiding lately long enough to rip the Director of THE ARTIST a new one for invoking music from VERTIGO to give his own film a little extra uumph at the end. Lovely Kim said it was tantamount to “rape” and her lambast was all the more thunderous because she is a living Hollywood legend who knows how to hold her tongue. She hasn’t even written her memoirs, though she tried (they were lost in a house-fire). Kim gets the GARBO award for letting everyone remember the way she was. Except for one offending French Director whose black & white love letter to silent movies incurred the wrath of a sex goddess. If that doesn’t spell OSCAR, I don’t know what does.

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To recap: What do you do when you’re a director whose film is fated to be in the running for an Oscar – big dream come true – that draws the ire and disdain of a silver screen siren = cinephile’s worst nightmare! While I can only wish to be in said Director’s shoes, I would never want to do it at the expense of one of my favorite CINEMUSES. I’d rather just continue toiling away in obscurity than succeed at the risk of offending a Goddess. After all, this life is but the prologue to another – and when I’m at the pearly gates, I only want my beautiful Leading Ladies who’ve passed before me to whisper nice things into St. Peter’s ear.