Golden Age of Hollywood Book Club discussion

Hob Nob > 'What becomes a legend most?'

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message 1: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
This is an amazing series of photos from the famous 'What becomes a legend most?' ad campaign of Blackglama Furs.

I believe its Richard Avedon, who did the photography. The fun thing about it is to look at the pictures and see how many of these iconic personalities you immediately recognize. Each star got a free mink for their endorsement.

You can also get the photos in a glossy coffee-table book.

message 2: by Mollie (new)

Mollie Harrison Pennock | 91 comments Today posing for a photo in a mink coat would be career ending!

message 3: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
ha! never thought of that

message 4: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
I'm not much a fan of the AFI lists but here's a quick ref for stars

message 5: by Mollie (new)

Mollie Harrison Pennock | 91 comments John Wayne isn't recognizable in the photo they used for him. Finally saw a resemblance after enlarging it.

message 6: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod

message 7: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments I don't see any problem with the John Wayne photo, just looks younger.

I noticed one of my favorites on the list--James Cagney. He was usually known as a tough guy until after 'Yankee Doodle Dandy', but he never lost that feisty, cocky air.

message 8: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
Interesting. Supposedly, he did that film to assure Hollywood he had no communist leanings.

'White Heat' and 'Dirty Faces' are my faves from him, naturally enough. Enjoyed his turn as a villain in 'Mister Roberts'

message 9: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments He was terrific in 'Mr. Roberts'. In fact, the acting in that movie was generally great. It's certainly a 'different' type of war movie, but probably closer to the truth since those involved in logistics outnumbered the fighting men.

message 10: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments Lists always cause controversy but that one is pretty much on target.

I always heard that Cohan wanted Cagney for the role in Yankee Doodle Dandy. It may be just one of those myths but if you look at pictures of Cohan and pictures of Cagney, it certainly makes sense. The feisty Irishman and the eccentric dancing......a perfect fit.

message 11: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments I think White Heat may be one of Cagney's finest roles. He played it so evil and psychologically twisted without becoming ludicrous. I have read somewhere that his scene in the prison dining hall when he hears about his mother's murder was ad libbed all the way and they just kept the cameras rolling. If you look at the extras, the wonderment on their faces is real since they didn't know what to expect. Very strong. It may be a myth but it is believable.

message 12: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments You can certainly see why he made such a good gangster. He had a ruthless core about him. Even as George M. Cohan, he had that need to win, to prove he was the best. Did you ever see 'The Bride Came C.O.D.' with Bette Davis? Two iron-wills 'pitted' against each other in a romanic comedy. Reminds me a bit of 'It Happened One Night.'

message 13: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments The two stars of 'It Happened One Night' both made the list, I noticed. Certainly, Clark Gable belongs, but I was a tad surprised about Claudette Colbert. She made some excellent movies, but probably isn't as remembered today as some actresses. Her hitchhiking scene will probably insure her place in cinematic history though.

message 14: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (last edited Dec 15, 2019 11:18AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
The prison dining hall scene --yeah --I agree. I bet they probably told the whole room that the bad news was simply gonna be whispered along to Cagney and he'd scowl or nod his head or some other standard reaction and they'd all keep right on eating. Ha!

message 15: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 961 comments I am a big fan of Love Me or Leave Me. Apparently, a lot of Doris Day fans were upset that she participated in such a dark film. The Ruth Etting story is really an amazing true story. She was responsible for the popularization of tons of American standards. Odd that you rarely hear her versions of those things today.

message 16: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments You don't hear her recordings very often. My favorite female singer from those day is Lee Wiley.....such a great voice.

message 17: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
I'm a fan of both Doris Etting and sultry Lee WIley (Wiley, from a generation later than Ruth). I might play Lee on a public jukebox but not Etting, that's a really rare and acquired taste.

You can hear plenty of Ruth Etting on a Denmark station called Radio Dismuk (Dismuke?) Only happy, zippy music from the 20s and 30s.;stream.mp3

message 18: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments This may not belong on this thread but I'm not sure where to put it. I am currently reading the biography of William Randolph Hearst and as I get further into it, I start comparing his life to the Orson Wells film Citizen Kane. We all know how Hearst reacted to that film and basically succeeded in keeping it out of many theaters and blasting it in his nationwide newspapers. My question you think this is one of the greatest films of all time or did it just get its reputation from the brouhaha that resulted when it was released?

message 19: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments That's a good question, Jill. (BTW, I think it would be good to have a thread where you could ask a generic question, and then discuss it since there are so many knowledgeable people on this list.)

Anway, I admit I know little about WRH so it's difficult to compare his life and the movie. However, I wasn't all that impressed with the movie, barely remembering anything but the last famous scene so I guess my answer would be on the negative side about greatness.

message 20: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (last edited Dec 17, 2019 09:09AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
I've read the pre-eminent Orson Welles biography where as much as one needs to know about WR Hearst, is covered. I wouldn't myself go out of my way to read his (Heart's) bio, interesting figure though he is.

The nub of the antipathy Hearst felt towards the film is (although one can't really say 100%) the likelihood that 'rosebud' is a pet-name Hearst used with his mistress during intimate moments. This sounds like a plausible theory to me. His ire is perfectly understandable. Otherwise, Hearst conceivably might have been flattered by the movie.

The larger question of the movie's overall standing: there's quite a body of evidence which easily demonstrates that the film is a bonafide powerhouse. Orson Welles, photographer Greg Toland and the players from the Mercury Theater were not lightweights or fluff-heads. They had razor-sharp skillsets; certainly in possession of all the chops necessary to create the finest movie in history.

The proof is in the pudding; you can find numerous analyses of the technical feats apparent in the film, which attest to just what it was they accomplished. Literally every scene is innovative in some new way.

Wells & Co were not specifically the creators of each and every technique used in the movie; but they brought them all to the forefront in a way which had never been done prior. They took Hollywood's best narrative tricks and made them serve dramatic storytelling as never had been imagined before.

It's really too much too hypothesize instead, that the movie was simple a cause celebre'. Too many years have passed for any sway of Heart's to persist; and renown for the film has only grown. Don't be deceived by the unhappy coincidence that 'Kane' was a dud at the box office; because that stems from entirely different causes. Pay no attention to the dunderheads who whiffed on it at the turnstiles. Anyone in Hollywood at the time (anyone who had any savvy at all), realized immediately what Welles had pulled off. It's a filmmaker's bonanza, a feast which perhaps middlebrow Americans simply weren't prepared for yet.

Discussion threads: do we need a 'questions' thread? Called 'I Wanna Know..." or something?

message 21: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments I would like to see a general thread because, as it is right now, the threads are rather specific, and I wonder about things that don't fit. For example I had a question last night about screen credits, but I gave it up because it seemed out of place. However, I won't be upset if you decide not to.

message 22: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments Sounds good, Feliks.

I absolutely agree with you on Citizen Kane. It has grown in reputation which certainly has nothing to do with the Hearst connection. The Mercury Theater players were an outstanding group of non-stars whose talent may have been overlooked if not for Welles (and John Houseman, if I remember correctly).

Welles is one of my favorites and his first appearance, standing in the dark doorway in The Third Man is breathtaking....I think I read that he had quite a hand in the making of that film btw.

message 23: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
We're of like mind! Fun when that happens.

John Houseman --I confess I can't recall as much as I'd like to about his work from the Welles bio that I read; but more recently came across something which indicated he handled the business side of Mercury for Welles; although he was multi-talented in many production capacities. If he had a hand in casting players, then this is something I myself was unaware of.

I was thinking the other day he probably had some scenes cut from his appearance in 'Three Days of the Condor'. Why did they introduce his character and leave him without an arc? Very odd cameo. He should have been revealed as someone responsible for the inner circle or someone squelching it.

Welles sure did ...'extemporize' (with Reed's tacit permission) in 'Third Man', I've looked into the history of that famous ferris wheel speech. Reed was thankfully judicious in how he finally used the ad-lib footage and gestures and flourishes but apparently stars like Welles (or even worse, Brando) are wont to do almost anything on a set. Who can possibly rein them in? They feel like they're visiting royalty.

message 24: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments Someone please tell me why John Wayne is a legend?

message 25: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
'Stagecoach'; 'The Quiet Man'; Monument Valley trilogy ... 'Rio Bravo', 'Red River', 'Sands of Iwo Jima', 'True Grit', 'They Were Expendable' ...and he came from Republic Pictures. Career total something like over 70 or 80 movies; most of them big releases. They showed his flicks to shavetails in US Marines bootcamps. Or at least they did, for a long while.

In what was can he possibly not be a legend? If anyone was, he was.

message 26: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments And he played John Wayne in every film. I think it is rather ironic that he is usually shown as the tough soldier in WWII films but never served during that conflict.

I am in disagreement with most people about him but I just don't see the attraction. His acting range was limited (altho' he was good in The Searchers) and he just played himself Compare him Henry Fonda, for example....Fonda could play anything (strong, weak, comedic) and be the character, even when playing against type as in Once Upon A Time In The West (oh my but he was evil in that film). Just my opinion which is in the minority!

message 27: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
Your criticism has been leveled at him in the past but the better critics and better historians agree the range was there for what and for when, it was required.

It's similar to what was later hurled at Eastwood and Bronson and Mitchum. Initially none of these men were called upon for their acting skills. The era he played in needed huge, simple, stalwart guys like Wayne and Heston and Hudson; the studios didn't always need sensitive, interpretive stage actors like Henry Fonda.

Wayne himself admitted he was an actor who merely 'reacted' to the actors around him; his huge presence turned anything else into scenery-eating.

But you can clearly see the technical astuteness he possessed in films like 'The Shootist' and 'The Searchers' (colossally respected) and 'On Wings of Eagles' (arguably his career-finest role, and a tender title, which one no one ever remembers).

message 28: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments I'm with you, Jill. I'm not a John Wayne fan, but I think Henry Fonda was a versatile actor in Mr. Roberts and 12 Angry Men especially.

John Wayne was badly miscast in 'Horse Soldiers', and as a romantic lead, he fell flat. I did see him once defending his not serving in the war because of his age and as a family man. He might have had a point about age, but lots of family men served.

message 29: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
There was some kind of age cut-off as I recall, anyway I'm sure he would have done fine in whatever capacity he was assigned. He was a big man and was a former gridiron athlete. Its disingenuous to accuse a man of cowardice without the faintest shred of circumstance on which to base it. Anyway the services were wise not to call him up; he was tremendously more effective to our war effort making movies, than by pulling an Elvis. It would have been a waste to place him in a quartermaster corp somewhere.

message 30: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 961 comments Sinatra sure got a lucky break.

message 31: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments I don't think anyone was accusing him of cowardice, is just odd that he was exempt from service when so many other stars went. Was Jimmy Stewart more expendable than Wayne?

We are probably never going to agree about Wayne but that's what makes this group so interesting......we can disagree and nobody gets shirty about it

message 32: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
To my recollection, any man over 40 or any man with a family of four? was not drafted and would have had to get special permission to override the terms. I'm sure there were negotiations that went on between Wayne and the services. Some stars were able to march right down and enlist; (and thus, some got 'bounties' placed on their heads by Adolf Hitler). I'm not exactly sure why Gable and Stewart had different options than Wayne; all were in their forties. Each of them might have insisted on joining up, who knows. There were other stars who did this and they still got turned down. Wayne though, was known for war movies. It was probably considered a looming public-relations nightmare to have to 'manage' his military career. There were other ways for men on the homefront to serve. Anyway I just don't think the 'irony' mentioned above, is all that ironic.

Stewart was viewed as a light comedic actor in that decade and also yes, his career was on the wane. His comeback with Anthony Mann was still years away. Anyway it's not as if every movie star could be excused from service. Why didn't Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Joan Russell, Joan Leslie, Bette Grable, Anne Rutherford, and all the other luminous Hollywood actresses join the WACs, the WAVEs or the SPARs? If for no other reason, because they served the nation better on the home-front.

message 33: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments Since Wayne was born in 1907, that would have made him 34 in 1941. Stewart was a year younger while Clark Gable was 40. As for the women mentioned, they certainly could have joined the services, but in any case would not have been on the front line.

message 34: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
Yes I know, I checked all that before I posted. My point remains. USO performers did come within range of fire though. Wayne's exemption was simple pragmatism by all parties involved. If one wants to stretch a point and characterize it as ironic, (to his detriment) that's a personal whim which anyone is free to indulge in.

message 35: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (last edited Jan 08, 2020 08:10AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
Nah I don't get irked by hardly anything at all that I ever see on an internet page. The entire medium of 'the web' or a 'chat forum' just doesn't invoke emotion in me. The bottom line is we're all typing sentences into keyboards and little white input boxes. No one is in my face, so it's a completely impersonal experience. I'm always amazed when I see fellow-commuter chucking at a laptop or tablet screen they carry with them.

At my place of employ, (a fast-paced environment) I rattle off forum messages fairly unconsciously simply as a way to add variety while I'm multi-tasking. At the most, I might merely harp on a point; but its never with 'heat'. More like just being 'meticulous'.

If chatting from my home base of an evening, then you'll find me here likely in the wake of a local pub-crawl and you may see more filibuster; more garrulousness ...but again not inspired by this digital medium --more so, from the 'spirit' medium!

message 36: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) | 2935 comments Remind me never to use the word "ironic" again! :>) So much for John Wayne since we could take up pages offering varying opinions about him but it was fun anyway.

message 37: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
I think Americans admire celebrities who stay consistent. We dislike 'flip-flopping'. Wayne was eternally just Wayne, from first appearance to last appearance. Not to mention his life coincided with and thus came to embody many traditionalist American values. Sure, in many interviews he appears to be a drunken blowhard bigot; but I'm not going to compose my lasting impression of the man from just this. I judge a man by the good he does, how he treats others. Things of that sort.

message 38: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 2661 comments Feliks wrote: "Yes I know, I checked all that before I posted. My point remains. USO performers did come within range of fire though. Wayne's exemption was simple pragmatism by all parties involved. If one wants ..."

I have considerable admiration for those who served in USO shows. They did put their lives on the line at times, but that is not the same as joining the services that you mentioned. People did what they felt they could do at the time. Fortunately, few had to make the ultimate sacrifice such as Carole Lombard did.

message 39: by Doubledf99.99 (new)

Doubledf99.99 | 275 comments I listened to a Betty Davis bio a while back and she and a few other women were instrumental in getting and working at the Hollywood Canteen.

message 40: by Spencer (new)

Spencer Rich | 961 comments I read Kirk Douglas's memoir at some point. Just to illustrate how John Wayne John Wayne was, he berated him for playing a weak artistic psycho. You're a tough guy like me. You don't play Van Gogh. I think Douglas just found it hilarious. I think Stewart and Bogie and everybody else kind of tolerated Wayne's cowboy might-is-right McCarthy ethics because he was a living archtype. But I have to say, he mostly just annoys me.

message 41: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
Sure, all the anecdotes are true, I'll grant them as true outright. I still don't think it matters. Hollywood has always had weirdos.

Wayne once made fun of Widmark's Christian name on the set of 'Alamo'. Casually, mockingly called him 'Dick' every time he needed his attention. Widmark finally objected and from then on Wayne formally (but fawningly) called him 'Richard'. Wayne hated effeminacy, a lot of men feel the same way. It's just that a lot of men don't have their most unflattering everyday actions recorded for posterity.

What does it all amount to? Heck, Mickey Rooney was said to be the worst person to get along with in Los Angeles.

message 42: by Feliks, Co-Moderator (last edited Jan 09, 2020 07:44AM) (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) | 2498 comments Mod
'Outmoded' & 'neanderthal' attitudes are apparently still prevalent enough in contemporary times, to catapult knuckle-dragging hominid Arnold Schwarzenegger into the governorship of modern-day, 'liberal' California ...but Wayne's cultural contributions are far better than Arnie's can ever (or will ever) be.

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