linda darnell

Linda Darnell ‘What I Got Don’t Need Beads’ – Episode 23

Linda Darnell was hardcore. A Madonna face with an ice heart. She was also funny, generous, extremely giving of her time, loved Mexican food and palling around with her bestie Ann Miller. Instead of being labelled a ‘tragedy’, we here at Any Ladle’s Sweet wish to celebrate Linda by discussing 3 of her finest roles: Forever Amber (1947), A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and No Way Out (1950). Come children…

Resources:
A Letter to Three Wives (1949) Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz [DVD] 20th Century Fox.

Davis, R.L. (1991) Hollywood Beauty: Linda Darnell and the American Dream, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Forever Amber (1947) Dir. Otto Preminger [YouTube] 20th Century Fox.

No Way Out (1950) Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz [YouTube] 20th Century Fox.

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rosalind russell

Rosalind Russell: Dollface Hick – Episode 22

Orry-Kelly recalled a conversation with Roz during the filming of Auntie Mame “On one occasion I said to her ‘You know, you’re a pretty wonderful girl and you’ve been a wonderful wife. In fact, you’ve been a wonderful mother.’ A naughty Mame-ish gleam came into her eyes as she said, ‘Yes, and I’m a hell of a lover’”. Episode 22 is devoted to this gargantuan superwoman of the silver screen. A unique comedic talent who always displayed class and good humour in whatever picture she worked on. In our opinion, Roz was ‘top drawer’. We discuss three of her finest: The Women (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), and Auntie Mame (1958).

THAT outfit, long thought deleted from the final version of the film but we found its brief appearance!

rosalind russellrosalind russell

Resources:
Auntie Mame (1958) Dir. Morton DaCosta [DVD] Warner Bros.
Dennis, P. (1955) Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade New York: Penguin.
Haskell, M. (1973) From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
His Girl Friday (1940) Dir. Howard Hawks [YouTube] Columbia Pictures.
Life is a Banquet: The Rosalind Russell Story (2009) Narr. Kathleen Turner [DVD] Total Media Group.
Russell, R. (1977) Life is a Banquet (with Chris Chase) New York: Ace Books.
The Women (1939) Dir. George Cukor [DVD] MGM.
seul-le-cinema.blogspot.ie/2008/12/women-1939.html
www.criterion.com/current/posts/43…rfect-remarriage

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gloria grahame

Gloria Grahame – Sister Under the Mink – Episode 21

This month we’re righting some wrongs here at Any Ladle’s Sweet. Gloria Grahame shone in support roles in many noir films, under many great directors but she references her mother as her only influence on her acting style. Negative stories surrounding her personal life overtook her talent and hard work and fact and fiction mixed into a tawdry Hollywood Babylon style mess. Gloria was a unique talent and we are here to celebrate her hard work and mesmerising onscreen presence. We discuss 3 of her finest, In a Lonely Place (1950), The Big Heat (1953), and Human Desire (1954).

Sources:
Callahan, D. (2008) ‘Fatal Instincts: The Dangerous Pout of Gloria Grahame’

Bright Lights 30 April [Available at: brightlightsfilm.com/fatal-instinct…/#.WX9Yq4jyvIV].

Chase, D (1997) ‘Gloria Grahame: In Praise of the Dirty Mind’ Film Comment September/October [Available at: www.filmcomment.com/article/gloria-grahame/].

Curcio, V. (1989) Suicide Blonde: The Life of Gloria Grahame. New York: William Morrow and Company.

Eisenschitz, B. (1996) Nicholas Ray: An American Journey translated by Tom Milne. New York: Faber & Faber.

Gunning, T. (2000) The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity. London, BFI with Palgrave Macmillan.

Hagen, R and Wagner, L. (2004) Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Noir Dames. Jefferson: McFarland.

Human Desire (1954) Dir. Fritz Lang [YouTube] Columbia Pictures.

In a Lonely Place (1950) Dir. Nicholas Ray. [DVR] Columbia Pictures.

Ray, N. (1993) I Was Interrupted: Nicholas Ray on Making Movies Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rickey, C. (2017) ‘In a Lonely Place: Film noir as an opera of male fury’

Library of America 28 June [Available at: www.loa.org/news-and-views/1301…-opera-of-male-fury].

The Big Heat (1953) Dir. Fritz Lang [DVD] Columbia Pictures.

Turner, P. (1986) Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. London: Pan Books.

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irene dunne

Irene Dunne – ‘She longed to be called baby’ – Episode 19

Irene Dunne was the queen of melodrama, comedy and musicals, a leading lady adored by all and seen by female audiences as an ‘every woman’. Many critics over the years have labelled Irene as either the ‘female Cary Grant’ or the refined lady who excelled in maternal roles. We at Any Ladle’s Sweet beg to differ and offer a more nuanced view of this deeply funny lady who always longed to be called ‘baby’. We discuss 3 of her finest roles: Ann Vickers (1933, Theodora Goes Wild (1936), and Unfinished Business (1941).

Sources:
Ann Vickers (1933). Dir. John Cromwell [DVD] RKO Pictures.

Basinger, J. (2007) The Star Machine. New York: Vintage.

Bawden, J. and Miller, R. (2016) Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

Bogdonovich, P. (1997) Who the Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors. New York: Ballantine.

Carman, E. (2016) Independent Stardom: Freelance Women in the Hollywood Studio System. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Douglas, M. (1986) See You at the Movies: The Autobiography of Melvyn Douglas. (with Tom Arthur) Lanham: University Press of America.

Gehring, W.D. (2006) Irene Dunne: First Lady of Hollywood. Lanham: Scarecrow Press.

McCourt: J. (1980) ‘Irene Dunne: The Awful Truth’ Film Comment 16.1 pp. 26-32.

Theodora Goes Wild (1936) Dir. Richard Boleslawski [YouTube] Columbia Pictures.

Unfinished Business (1941) Dir. Gregory La Cava [YouTube] Universal Studios.

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foolish heart

Close Up #5

Close Up #5: Susan Hayward’s frock in My Foolish Heart (1949)

Woman’s pictures elevate the significance of style details to an unwritten code that informs women’s lives. In a classic double bind, women negotiate sartorial choices that have both enormous importance and absolutely none at all. In woman’s pictures, viewers bask in plots that measure the thread and texture among layers of stylish import. Ask a woman what she wore when she met the love of her life and odds favour her total recall.

If she pays no attention to matters of style, she’s a rube, such as Jeanne Crain in her mail order dress in A Letter to Three Wives (1949). Wearing a tatty chiffon monstrosity with too many tiers and improbably placed floral appliques, she makes her social debut outfitted as a hick among soigné country club wives. A woman’s lack of style presents social embarrassment, it renders her a ‘Christmas tree’, as snotty teenagers brand over-embellished Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas (1937), whose lack of taste authorises her stuck up daughter to leave and pretend her mother never existed. Style deficiency paints a woman as a gate crasher from the unfortunate side of the tracks, as Lana Turner’s taxi dancer appears to be among spoilt co-eds in These Glamour Girls (1939). A series of awkward, ill-fitted gowns prepare Olivia de Havilland for her father’s psychological abuse and the cruelties of a fortune hunter in The Heiress (1949).

If a woman pays too much attention to fashion, she’s a bubble-headed half-wit with nothing better to do, like Scarlett O’Hara before she must plow the earth to survive, before the war, when women did little else than boast about the size of their waist. An obvious focus on style indicates an outrageous socialite with too much time on her hands, like Rosalind Russell in The Women (1939), who wears a shirtwaist dress with a bustle to a fashion show, where she declares with dramatic irony that ‘no one disputes how I wear clothes’. Or, if she devotes her life to fashion, like the designer Barbara Stanwyck plays in There’s Always Tomorrow (1955) when she makes a friendly overture to Joan Bennett by offering her a dress straight off the runway, Bennett’s character smugly dismisses the need for a stylish dress to stage a romantic evening with the husband played by Fred MacMurray. Busy wives and mothers don’t have time for such larks, she basically scoffs. Bennett relegates Stanwyck’s professional accomplishments to the trash heap with a single eviscerating comment.

In the style wars, what the right dress can do for a woman has endless variation on film, and the scenario never dulls into cliché. Call her Madame Satan (1930), in Adrian’s sex bomb torso cut-out costume for Kay Johnson to win back her husband; Joan Crawford in simple moire silk in The Last of Mrs Cheyney (1937) who has a society dame drooling over her gown, which gains entry to their circle; Bette Davis greets the family in a long sleeve sumptuous number, accented with fresh camellias as newly made over after a nervous breakdown in Now, Voyager (1942), or Anna Neagle, a poor Irish immigrant shop girl who turns up to a society ball in her mother’s vintage blue gown and becomes a modern Cinderella in Irene (1940). A dress might spell social suicide or a passport to social mobility and opportunity—the right frock opens doors.

Fate and fortune often turn on a dress. Susan Hayward’s character Eloise in My Foolish Heart (1949) learns that a frock matters, not only for the impression it gives, but also how it frames power relationships with other women and men. What you wear makes you vulnerable, as Hayward so adeptly underscores with a stirring performance. Playing an Idaho girl in a New York college, naturally she wants to look as though she’s earned the passage from Rocky Mountains to gold standard metropolis. Except she made a greenhorn mistake by assuming a shop clerk in Boise ‘who swore on her life’ knows what will pass for the height of fashion in New York.

foolish heart

A brown and white buffalo plaid swing dress with a scoop neckline bears every aesthetic hallmark of an unsophisticated style frontier: broad, safe, and simple. First, in the words of Miuccia Prada, brown seems ‘difficult and unappealing’ an otherwise tricky choice for a party dress. (I should interject that I wore head-to-toe chocolate the night I met the love of my life, and spent most of 15 years with it as the dominant colour in my wardrobe, but even I never owned a brown party dress). A hue of bespoke industry, acumen and application, brown connotes serious engagement with work and study, not twirling on a dancefloor with a new beau. Too sombre for flirtation, brown amounts to frivolity’s antidote. Think of Katharine Hepburn’s style blunder when she marries Robert Taylor in a brown dress (and then meets his society friends) in Undercurrent (1946), where afterward, he rushes her to a dress shop fitting room to remedy her social gaffe. That’s not to malign the shade with a wide range of utility, but a cocktail dress fails within a brown range, unless worn by Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950) who has bigger fish to fry than having any fun, but even her famous Edith Head frock with fur pockets was really more of a rust colour, which has enough energetic red to lift a muddy hue.

foolish heart

The buffalo plaid print seems more aligned with outdoor pursuits or a picnic. As closely as it resembles a tablecloth, buffalo plaid suggests hidden comestibles or hay rather than a lady of intrigue. Only gingham would have surpassed in the infantilised department. A scoop neckline feels askew for NYC in 1949. Something about it looks saccharine, too innocent, more on par with a sweet sixteen party than a grown woman in university out on the town. Eloise looks out of step with the rest of her classmates, which snobby Miriam Ball (Karin Booth) delights to point out when she obliterates Eloise’s pride by telling her that no one wears a dress like that in New York anymore.

Miriam’s cutting remark shifts Eloise to the party side lines where she mewls and nurses her wounded self-confidence. She withers under a fashionable girl’s pronouncement. Only one thing can restore Eloise’s evening from self-pity in the corner, and it comes in the guise of Dana Andrews. With the most desirable man in the room by her side, she makes full social recovery. Along with his attention, he bestows a bouquet of Schadenfreude, when he issues devastating comments about Miriam’s ensemble. Even if men possess zero actual knowledge about fashion, they can still render scathing remarks that invalidate a woman’s style choices, because in the end everything rests upon their approval, so the sands that shift in patriarchy’s hourglass command. When Dana Andrews’ Walt Drieser looks at Miriam Ball, he takes less than a second to declare her a frump. He repeats it a few times. He bases his opinion on the fact that he knows people who went to Paris. By proxy of association, he may claim a mantle of style authority. Walt also reasons that most likely her dress was manufactured in Seventh Avenue, so it automatically rates as fashionable for the city. His argument seems persuasive on the surface because the Garment District had a strong level of production and influence in American clothing industry up until the 1970s. But just because brown and white buffalo plaid comes out of a New York sewing machine doesn’t mean women there elect to wear it. Eloise has little interest in poking holes in his theory. She’s content to squeeze solace from his explanation.

foolish heart

In a brief exchange, he rescinds Miriam’s status as fashion queen when he compliments her column gown and then adds that every girl in a mining town he had just visited wore the exact same dress as an almost uniform. She freezes as though he had tossed an ice bucket over her head. Before he can get started on her hair, she exits the ball with an excuse about an early morning. Walt’s opinion lacks any validity (it’s a lovely Grecian drape) but since he’s handsome and charming, his assessment may as well be the writ of Pharaoh Ramses carved in stone. Defenceless, Miriam suffers the blow. The vagaries of style limit a woman’s confidence that she’s always able to showcase impeccable style. Subjective, ever-changing and site of a thousand insecurities, fashion means every woman with a pulse knows how the room dims and shrinks in the wrong dress.

foolish heart

Eloise connects the dots for how a dress shapes the evening. Later, in his bachelor flat, she realises the home-on-the-range dress left her vulnerable to not only catty remarks by classmates but also wolfish-minded men on the prowl. Eloise’s dress achieved the same result as a large neon sign announcing her recent arrival from the sticks. Unaccustomed to a man with moves and a game plan, she accepted what he said and did at face value, influenced perhaps by what the dress suggested. Galinsky (2012) identifies a process of ‘enclothed cognition’ in a recent study, which traces a correlation between what we wear and how it influences our behaviour and decisions. In Eloise’s case, she became as naïf as the design, a guileless dress served as gift wrap for a man looking for an easy pick up. She tells Walt:

We only met because I wore the wrong dress.

foolish heart

Years later, when Eloise’s former friend Mary Jane (Lois Wheeler) visits, she doesn’t hold a grudge over how their friendship soured. Pragmatic Mary Jane understands the way the wheel of fashion fortunes turn:

I could have been the girl in the brown and white dress. Anyone could have.

Good or bad luck often comes off the rack.

 

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