It’s Award Time! – The Liebster Award

A few weeks ago Zoe from Hollywood Genes nominated me for the Liebster Award! Thank you so much, Zoe! The Liebster Award is a way to reach out, connect, and encourage each other in the blogging community.

In order to accept this award there are a few rules to follow, so without further delay let’s begin…

The rules for the Liebster Award:

  1. Thank the nominator in your award post.
  2. Place the award logo somewhere on your blog.
  3. You must state up to 11 facts about yourself.
  4. Complete the questions that your nominator provided.
  5. Nominate as many bloggers as you’d like (11 is the maximum).
  6. Ask your nominees a series of questions (11 is the maximum).

11 Facts about Myself:

  1. I watched GWTW as a teen so many times I practically have the movie memorized and can push a play button in my head to “watch it” with sound included.
  2. I was told by two different people in the same day about ten minutes of each other that I look like Anne Hathaway.
  3. The books on my shelves can be divided into mainly four categories: film; fiction; interior design; and music/art.
  4. For a project in high school I had to draw all 50 of the US flags and as a result I still have a pretty good grasp of them.
  5. Classic film inspired me to take up ballroom dancing. I’m no Ginger Rogers, but I intended to develop my skills in this area as I absolutely love it.
  6. As a youngster I would pretend I was Esther Williams in our backyard pool and imitate her routine from the one film I had of hers.
  7. As a kid, I once ate a bowl and a half of plain Cool Whip in one sitting and haven’t touched it since.
  8. I play two instruments.
  9. My favorite classical composers are Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff. As for popular music, the Great American Songbook is my jam – Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein.
  10. The Phantom of the Opera is my favorite stage show. I have seen it three times, and would gladly see it again.
  11. I have never broken a bone – knock on wood!

My 11 Questions from Zoe

What is the strangest or most off-brand topic/thing you’ve blogged about?

I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for this one as I try to keep everything on topic as best I can.

Who or what inspired you to start blogging?

One day after watching a film and looking it up online, I came across some of the lovely blogs that I am in contact with now. I thought, “Hey, I wanna do what these people are doing – to join them by way of spreading and sharing my love of classic movies with others.” These films are too great to be lost to obscurity and deserve to be noticed and appreciated for the wonderful pieces of art that they are.

Recast one of your favorite classic movies (pre 1970s) with modern actors.

VERTIGO (1958)

  • Jessica Biel as Madeleine Elster
  • Daniel Craig as Scottie Ferguson
  • Reese Witherspoon as Midge Wood

Recast one of your favorite modern movies with classic actors.

THE ILLUSIONIST (2006)

  • Ingrid Bergman as Sophie
  • Gregory Peck as Eisenheim
  • Claude Rains as Inspector Uhl
  • Vincent Price as Crown Prince Leopold

What is a book that you would love to see adapted into a film and why? 

I read a book as a youngster that I loved called The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. It is a lovely tale with a wonderful message about being loved for who you really are – not for money, status, or appearance. The princess in the story is plucky, self-reliant, happy with who she is and takes the reins in delegating how her life plays out.

What do you consider the biggest misstep behind the scenes in the cinema world (i.e. not casting someone for a role, a specific directorial choice, a remake that shouldn’t have happened, an interview that went on to haunt someone, etc.)

No disrespect to Bogie, but if I was casting Sabrina (1953) I would have cast someone else as Linus Larrabee. Maybe Rock Hudson would have worked…I could see him playing the strictly business type turned soft by Audrey’s charms.

What do you consider the most fascinating film community scandal (past or present)?

Too many to name!

Which actor or actress do you think died way too soon and where would you have liked to see their career go had they lived?

Oh, there are so many I could go with here but my heart always goes out to Marilyn Monroe. She had the intelligence and the popularity to go up higher in the industry. She did have her own production company and I’m sure she could have kept going up the ladder if her life had permitted.

Which actor or actress missed their calling in a specific genre and why do you think they would or would have excelled in this vein? 

I would say Merle Oberon. In The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) she showed she had some comedic chops as well as being a fine dramatic actress.

Which 6 guests would you invite to your Hollywood party and why these specific 6? 

Oh yay, I love this question! I would invite Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Grace Kelly, William Holden, Lucille Ball, and Marlon Brando. I think besides being very talented as well as some of my favorite actors, these six would make a fine bunch to give advice about many things and would be all around awesome to hang out with.

Which onscreen outfit would you wear everyday if you could and why did you pick this one?

Grace Kelly’s dress from Rear Window (1954). Because it would make me feel beautiful and the skirt looks roomy enough to move around in and be comfortable. Wearing white all day would make me nervous though! I wouldn’t want to get it dirty 😉

The Nominees

  1. Pure Entertainment Preservation Society
  2. The Classic Hollywood Blog
  3. Classic Film Journal
  4. Femnista
  5. Hollywoodland Photos

My Questions for the Nominees

  1. When did you first become interested in classic film?
  2. What is your favorite movie quote?
  3. If you had to choose 5 movies to take with you to a deserted island what would they be and why those 5?
  4. Who is the latest actor/director etc. that you’ve discovered and where/how did you discover them?
  5. What’s something you’ve learned about yourself from blogging?

Congrats to the nominees!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Book Nook – I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, The Dog Who Was Toto by Willard Carroll

“We may never be fortunate enough to travel down a yellow brick road with a real Scarecrow or Tin Man or Cowardly Lion, but those lucky of us have had or do have our Totos. When we stroke and hold our own current four-legged friends, we think of all the dogs that came before. And we think of Toto.”

Willard Carroll

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love when a film adds an animal friend to the mix – whether it’s Gertrude the duck in Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), Asta from the The Thin Man series or Baby, the music loving leopard. Animals add an element of innocence, fun, or danger and can draw emotions from us in a way that a million words of dialogue cannot.

If you’ve been hanging around my blog for any amount of time you’ll realize that I admire The Wizard of Oz, so when I saw that this book was available I knew I needed to add it to my collection. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.

In this charming book, you’ll discover the life of Terry, the little dog that nobody wanted, who became one of the movies’ most memorable pups and a beloved icon.

Before there was The Dog Whisperer, there was Carl Spitz – a German immigrant who changed the way we understand and train our dogs. When he started his Hollywood Dog Training School in 1927, dog training for the public was according to Spitz, “considered, in general, nonsense.” Spitz’s foundation for training was simple: firm, affectionate direction. As a military and police dog trainer, Spitz had devised a system of silent dog commands to be used by the deaf which he would later use for directing canines before the cameras.

Terry the Cairn Terrier was brought to Carl and his wife’s home for training (housebreaking), but after she completed her training Terry’s owners never paid their bill. The Spitz’s adopted little Terry as their own. She became a loved member of the family and eventually, a bonafide star – rechristened as ‘Toto.’

what did i enjoy?

The format – Throughout the telling of this heartwarming story are many visuals, presented in a scrapbook style highlighting Toto’s career. Production photos, photos of her life at home, press clippings, and memorabilia are heavily scattered throughout its pages.

Worth the price of admission alone are the inside covers inscribed to Toto by her many co-stars. My favorites have to be Judy Garland’s – “Dear Toto, I think I’ll miss you most of all (don’t tell Ray!)” and Jack Haley’s – “You warm this Tin Man’s heart!”

The star stories – In addition to Oz, Toto was cast in Fury (1936) with Spencer Tracy and Bright Eyes (1934) with Shirley Temple, to name a few. The account of Toto’s first meeting with Clark Gable is particularly memorable.

In addition to discussing Toto’s career and life story, the book also talks about the other dogs in Carl Spitz’s kennel and the movies they were featured in. For instance, Buck, who starred with Gable in Call of the Wild (1935), was the first star to emerge under Spitz’s Hollywood Dog Training School. Another notable is Prince from Wuthering Heights (1939).

Carl Spitz with his prized pets before embarking on their tour (1942). The dogs were valued at $20,000 each!

The perspective – 99% of the time when reading about Old Hollywood I’m reading about humans. It’s interesting to change it up and see how a dog gets ready for a day of shooting, the problems they encountered while filming, or how the trainer prepares them for a screen test.

what would i change?

Nothing! I only wish it were longer.

who is this book for?

Any fan of The Wizard of Oz, classic movies, “rags to riches” stories, or dogs in general would enjoy this book.

Since this book is written from a dog’s perspective and Terry is telling you her story, I think this book would be great for kids who are showing an interest in classic movies, Oz fans in particular.

Virginia Weidler, Toto, and Gene Reynolds in a publicity photo for Bad Little Angel (1939)

want to know more?

In the introduction the author says how he was driven to write the book because at the time Toto did not even have an Imdb page! As of this writing, this book appears to be the only book dedicated solely to her. It was published in 2001.

I have found some information on Toto in The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz as well as The Wizardry of Oz: The Artistry and Magic of the 1939 M-G-M Classic by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman (I own the 2004 expanded edition).

You can purchase today’s book here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Love & War: Marriage in Gone With the Wind (1939)

Image: amc.com

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s epic of the Old South, is one of the best selling books of all time. When made into a film in 1939, it became an international phenomenon that has intrigued the public like no other. To this day, Gone With the Wind is still the most succesful movie ever made.

Ripe with complex characters, wonderful performances, and non-stop action, the film thrills in every way possible. In the midst of this sprawling epic are three couples with varying dynamics in their marital relationships. I would like to focus on these in particular: Gerald and Ellen O’Hara, Scarlett’s parents; Ashley and Melanie Wilkes; and of course, Rhett and Scarlett.

Gerald & Ellen O’Hara

Image: Pinterest

Gerald (Thomas Mitchell) and Ellen O’Hara (Barbara O’Neill) are the owners of the Tara plantation. Their pride and joy is wrapped up in every fiber of the land.

Image: gonewiththewindfandom.com

Ellen devotes herself to being the mistress of Tara and is a very capable one. A responsive mother to the emotional needs of her daughters, and a midwife to the women in town, she is highly respected in their community.

The relationship between Gerald and Ellen is platonic and respectful. Coming from the book, theirs was an arranged marriage and while Gerald was wild about Ellen, she did not feel the same about him. Ellen was in love with another man whom she could not marry due to her family’s disapproval. Gerald was always of the opinion that his wife was as happy as he was in their marriage, and I’m sure it would have broken his heart if he knew the truth.

When Ellen passes on, Gerald cannot function without her and sadly, loses his mind. His strength seemed to come from Ellen even before she passed, but it was most definitely buried with her when she died.

Ashley & Melanie Wilkes

Image: lanternhollow.wordpress.com

Our next couple, Ashley (Leslie Howard) and Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland), are second cousins. In the film Ashley says, “She [Melanie] is part of my blood and we understand each other.” That pretty much summarizes their relationship – it is built upon understanding and familiarity. In the book, Ashley and Melanie share the same interests: reading, culture, and the arts. While this is not spoken of in the film, it is clear that they are cut from the same cloth. They both are peace loving people with not an aggressive bone in their bodies.

Image: directexpose.com

Although Ashley strings Scarlett along with hopes of romance, his heart belongs to Melanie. While he is drawn to Scarlett’s fire and passionate nature, he knows that a relationship between them would not be a successful one. Melanie is much better suited to him. She understands his nature and idolizes him, while he leans on and admires her quiet, gentle strength.

When Melanie passes, Ashley takes on a similar behavior that Gerald exhibited at Ellen’s passing. He then confesses to Scarlett that he cannot live without Melanie. “She’s the only dream I’ve had that didn’t die in the face of reality.” Like Gerald, Ashley’s strength comes from his wife, and it is at that moment Scarlett realizes how her affections have been misplaced for so long.

Rhett & Scarlett

Image: abcnews.go.com

It is love at first sight when Rhett (Clark Gable) first lays eyes on Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). He’s drawn to her beauty, her strength, and to the fact that she is just like him. Rhett admits to Scarlett that they are alike and meant to be together.”Bad lots – both of us. We are able to look things in the eye and call them by their real names.”

Scarlett has a disrespect for Rhett in the sense that he is not a genteel Southern gentleman whom she was raised to admire. He is a self made man who takes advantage of the war by making his own fortune off of it. He has no nostalgia for the Old South nor respects its ways. Rhett is a man of action, ready for whatever life throws at him. He is not the type of man Scarlett has been dreaming of marrying since she was a little girl. That place belongs to someone like Ashley.

Rhett proves himself a capable and trustworthy man despite his scandalous reputation. Although Scarlett doesn’t admit to loving him until the end of the movie, she does come to lean on him in times of need. That’s not something she could say for many of the other men in her life.

Image: Pinterest

You could say Scarlett uses marriage as a tool – sometimes as a weapon, other times as a shield. When she marries her first husband, it is out of spite to hurt Ashley. Not only that, she strategically marries into Ashley’s family, forever being tied to him. When she marries her second husband, it is to save Tara from being taken away from her. When she marries Rhett, it is for the security of never being poor. Unlike most women, Scarlett does not marry for love.

Rhett and Scarlett’s marriage is volatile, tempestuous, and passionate. The times we see them happy together are few, and the tension between them mounts as the film goes on.

Rhett seethes with jealousy as he observes Scarlett in her constant pursuit of Ashley and is deeply hurt by Scarlett’s rejection of him, while Scarlett believes that Rhett is in love with Belle, not with her at all.

Image: Pinterest

Their marriage is characterized by misunderstanding fostered by miscommunication. Neither of them can admit their true feelings to each other. The few times one of them comes close to having a transparent conversation, the other throws a jab and then they’re back to square one – arguing and bickering without coming to a resolution.

Rhett and Scarlett were both strong willed individuals and meant for each other, but Scarlett failed to see the cold, hard facts until it was too late.

Rhett and Scarlett rank right up there with literature and lore’s most famous lovers: Antony and Cleopatra; and Lancelot and Guinevere. However, unlike the aforementioned couples, Rhett and Scarlett did make it to the marriage altar – for better or worse.

This post is my contribution to The Wedding Bells Blogathon hosted by Annette of Hometowns to Hollywood. Click here to read the rest of the blissful entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

My Favorite Leading Men

Here we are – already almost through the first month of the year! Very hard to believe. With that said, I’ve realized that I haven’t done any favorites lists on this blog yet and thought it would be a fun way to spice things up a little. So today, I’ve decided to look at those men who helm the whole picture, opposite the fabulous leading lady of course! I’m going to list my favorites, the role(s) that made me a fan of them, and any other tidbits that I found interesting. Without further ado, let’s begin!

“For me, acting is not an all-consuming thing, except for the moment when I am actually doing it.”

william holden

One of my most watched movies as a teenager was Sabrina (1954). I loved the romance of the Cinderella story, Sabrina’s transformation in Paris, and the characters that inhibit the story. Another aspect I loved about this movie was Sabrina’s crush, David (William Holden). He was charming, handsome, and had a smile that could melt any girl’s heart. I loved the song “Isn’t it Romantic” and still think about David and Sabrina dancing whenever I hear it. What came through to me in this film were Holden’s playful and romantic sides. This was my first Holden film, and it wasn’t until later that I discovered he was much more than a romantic lead.

Ah, I love this film for so many reasons! Judy Holliday is absolutely marvelous in Born Yesterday (1950) as Billie, the uneducated arm candy mistress of a criminal boyfriend. In comes Paul Varrell, (William Holden) and treats the girl as if she were a princess. He listens to her uncritically, nonjudmentally, patiently, and then teaches her to think critically for herself. The chemistry between these two is just lovely as is evidenced by both the romantic and comedic moments.

What stood out to me in this film was how kind Paul is to Billie. His innate goodness shines through the character in a way that I haven’t seen in too many other leading men. It’s so beautiful to see. A little backstory, I’ve heard that it takes leading actors a great deal of humility to take on a role where they know they are going to play second fiddle to someone with a scene stealing part and some will even refuse to “stoop down” to that level. Holden was not of that mindset and supported Holliday (in her Oscar winning role) with grace and dignity.

“I’m no actor and I never have been. What people see on the screen is me.”

clark gable

Clark Gable. The King of Hollywood. In my opinion, Clark Gable was one of the best personalities to ever grace the silver screen. Actually, he commanded it. I love his no nonsense attitude, his sense of humor, his calm, steady manner in times of crises, but most of all, I appreciate the vulnerability that came through in his performances. Underneath all of his bravado and machismo, there beat a gentle heart that needed love and care. In addition, he passed on his sensitive understanding of humanity to others.

Red Dust (1932). Screenshot by me.

Watch the scene in Red Dust (1932) when Clark is about to tell Gene Raymond how he and Mary Astor love each other. Gene Raymond tells Clark his and Mary’s plans for settling down and raising a family and of Mary’s love for their close knit family and friends. Clark’s manner and expression changes from being confident and in control, to sad and reflective, as he knows that he will have to give up Mary. It is a subtly effective, beautiful moment on film.

One of the many pleasures of watching Gone with the Wind (1939) is Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler. Rhett, besides Mammy, is the only one who sees right through Scarlett’s shenanigans and isn’t fooled by the innocence that she masquerades in front of others. He knows exactly who she is and sardonically calls her out on it, but loves her anyway. With Rhett, what you see is what you get. He is bold and honest, and respects those who are the same.

When Melanie comes to comfort Rhett after Scarlett’s accident, Clark gave us one out of the many golden scenes in Gone with the Wind. He encompasses Rhett’s guilt and pain, the tenderness and trust of his friendship with Melanie, and his doomed, tortured love for Scarlett all in one short scene.

“To grasp the full significance of life is the actors duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it is his dedication.”

marlon brando

Marlon Brando is a fairly new discovery for me. I know, I know, how can you be a classic movie fan and not know Marlon Brando? Crazy, right? I’d seen Guys and Dolls and heard about all the accolades for On the Waterfront through the years; but I wasn’t in a rush to see it as I thought it was all hype – that is, until I saw it.

In On the Waterfront, (1954) Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is a product of his unfortunate circumstances. He is caught in the middle of his allegiance to Johnny Friendly, the corrupt union boss who rules the docks, and his own moral compass. His goodness is brought to the forefront by his love for the sweet and innocent Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint). It is through their relationship that the tender side of this tough, hard nosed ex-prize fighter comes out, which Marlon beautifully portrays with the emotional sensitivity that became his trademark.

As a sculptor molds clay or a painter wields his paintbrush, Marlon becomes Terry before our very eyes taking us through each stage of Terry’s development and his emotional journey. Throughout the film, he transitions from a victim/accomplice into a courageous man who recognizes his own personal power and embraces it despite the great danger and opposition surrounding him. Marlon won an Oscar for his performance, and it’s not hard to see why. It is a towering performance, both heartbreaking and empowering, flawless in its execution, and should not be missed.

Now it’s your turn! Who are some of your favorites?

Image: Pinterest

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

The Sunshine Blogger Award – Hello Sunshine!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Paul from Silver Screen Classics has kindly nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award given by bloggers to bloggers who are positive, creative, and inspiring. I’ve been blogging for a little over a month so this is a huge honor to say the least. I am so very thankful! Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Paul!!

I’d also like to thank all those who have supported my blogging efforts and for the kindness they’ve extended in welcoming me to the classic film community. You’ll never know how much your thoughtful comments and supportive words mean to me. I’ve enjoyed chatting with each one of you and look forward to many more wonderful discussions in addition to reading your inspiring articles!

I could go on all day, but let’s commence with the preliminaries, shall we?

The rules concerning the award

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  3. Nominate eleven bloggers.
  4. Create eleven new questions for your nominees to answer.

I am going to make an amend to the nomination with the permission of Katharine Hepburn. “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” There are a few questions I have chosen not to answer. Nonetheless, I had a blast answering these questions and coming up with new ones for my fellow bloggers!

Questions and Answers

Which actor or actress who hasn’t received an Oscar do you think deserves one? And for what film?

Merle Oberon. I think she was very underrated. Maybe her beauty overshadowed her abilities. Her Cathy in Wuthering Heights is heartbreaking and worthy of an award, but 1939 was such a monumental year in films and had so many great contenders. I have yet to see her Oscar nominated role The Dark Angel (1935). If anyone has seen that one, please let me know!

Who is your favourite child actor and name a film they were in which you love.

Mary Jane Saunders in Father is a Bachelor (1950). She is a new discovery of mine thanks to Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies. Read Mike’s review of this adorable film here.

If a biopic was made of you during the classic film era (1920s to 1960s), who would you like to play you and why?

Audrey Hepburn. Who wouldn’t want to be represented by her? She’s elegant, unpretentious, and her good nature shines through her face like a ray of sunshine.

Which famous starry couple (of any time and place) would you want as neighbours?

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. With their crazy antics and menagerie, they seem like the perfect neighbors to spice up the neighborhood.

If there was ONE actor or actress (living or deceased) whom you could interview for your blog, who would it be and why would you choose that person?

Grace Kelly. She has always held a certain fascination and mystery for me. The films she worked on and people she worked with were legendary. I’d love to hear of her experiences working with them and the making of those films. Her life is so inspiring as well. Coming from a family where only her uncle could appreciate her gifts and interests must have been difficult, but she pressed on despite her family’s disbelief in her abilities. In the end, she outshined all of them.

Which film character’s closet would you love to raid?

Hmm this is a tough one but I’m going to say Scarlett O’Hara. She is the ultimate and cannot be beat! I can’t get enough of the lush fabrics she wears. The robes she wears towards the end of the film are spectacular.

Of all the classic film studios, which is your favourite and why?

MGM. I’m drawn to the glamour of the studio, the plethora of musicals they turned out, the way they used color, the art direction, and the roster of fabulous stars. It’s also pretty fascinating to me how the studio was a whole world unto itself.

Choose a film where you would love to change the ending. Explain what that change would be and why you would do it.

I’d love to change the ending to Sabrina (1954). It always felt off to me that Sabrina and Linus get together. I can’t feel the chemistry between them and I don’t see them lasting for the long haul. I understand that Sabrina brought Linus out and made him realize he was missing something, that he needed something in life more than his corporate world. I would rather have them part as friends where Linus finds someone in New York, and Sabrina goes off to Paris and finds someone wonderful there.

The Nominees for The Sunshine Blogger Award

The Wonderful World of Cinema

Poppity Talks Classic Film

A Vintage Nerd

Watching Forever

Love Letters to Old Hollywood

Silver Screenings

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

Coffee, Classics & Craziness

The Flapper Dame

A Person in the Dark

Caftan Woman

The nominees above have wonderful blogs and I highly, highly recommend checking them out if you’re not acquainted with them already!

The Questions

  1. What are two of your favorite films that have also won Best Picture?
  2. What is your favorite film score?
  3. What is your favorite play to movie adaptation?
  4. What is your favorite decade of film? Your least favorite? Why and why not?
  5. If you could be a character in a film for a day who would it be and why?
  6. What is the latest film related book you’ve read? Share something new you learned from it.
  7. You’re given the chance to recast a film from the golden era. Which film would it be and who would you choose for your dream cast?
  8. Do you prefer Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly?
  9. You’ve walked into a restaurant and have the choice of having five folks from the film industry (actors/actresses/directors/screenwriters/composers etc.) join you for dinner. Who would you choose and why?
  10. What’s a film related item you have on your holiday wish list?
  11. You are given the chance to go back in time and watch the filming of a movie from the golden age. Which is it and why?

Congrats to my nominees!

Just know that there is absolutely no pressure to participate, it’s totally understandable if you choose not to; however, I do recommend it as it is a lot of fun.

I’m extending the invitation to everyone, not only the nominees, to answer as many questions as they’d like in the comment section. I look forward to reading your answers! Until then…

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Grace and Kate: The Princess and The First Lady of Cinema

Grace and Kate. Kate and Grace. Could there be two stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age any more different from each other than these two? Both of these women made their indelible mark on film history with their individuality, remarkable talent, and unwavering determination. As different as they were, there still are many notable similarities. My purpose in this post is to uncover those similarities, thereby giving us a double take of these two legends.

-Images are in the Public Domain unless otherwise noted-

The Early Years

Images: https://forums.thefashionspot.com/threads/grace-kelly-3.207135/page-30 (left); Pinterest (right)

Grace was born into a wealthy family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father, Jack Kelly, was a three time Olympic champion rower who encouraged his family to participate in any and all manner of athletics. Grace’s mother was a champion swimmer who became a physical education teacher for ladies at the University of Philadelphia. She also modeled for a number of years.

Every summer the Kelly family retreated from the hustle and bustle of Philadelphia by vacationing in Ocean City, New Jersey. In Ocean City they enjoyed the beach, boardwalk, and quiet life along the shoreline.

When Grace was a teenager she was part of her school’s hockey and swim teams, and she loved to dance.

Young Grace dreamed of being an actress; however, her parents were not keen on the idea. At nineteen, they permitted her to go to New York to study acting so she could get it out of her system. Little did they know she would be quite successful, and that it would change the course of her life.

Image: Pinterest (right)

Kate was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to a prosperous family. Her father, Thomas Hepburn, was a doctor at Hartford Hospital, and her mother was the director of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. Her family had a summer home in Fenwick, a borough of Old Saybrook, where the Connecticut River flows into the Long Island Sound. Kate’s father believed in the importance of physical activity, and Kate learned boating, fishing, and swimming at an early age. She also grew an affinity for tennis and golfing, becoming a state semi-finalist in the latter.

While attending her mother’s alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, Kate grew interested in acting. She participated in some of the college plays and decided that was what she wanted to do. Her parents weren’t entirely thrilled, but Kate pursued her dream nevertheless.

Negotiations, Camera, Action!

In 1952, Grace was offered a role that she simple couldn’t refuse. Mogambo would give her the chance to work with two of her heroes, John Ford and Clark Gable, and the film would be shot on location in Africa; however, in order for her to accept the role she would be tied in to a seven year contract with MGM. Grace made two stipulations: that she could return to her first love, the theater, one out of every two years, and that she would be permitted to live in her apartment in New York City. MGM agreed to the terms, proving that Grace, though still very new to Hollywood, could call the shots.

I signed with MGM because Mogambo offered the opportunity to work with John Ford and Clark Gable, and to make the picture in Africa. If the production had been scheduled in Arizona, I wouldn’t have signed the contract. But I did – at the departure desk of the airport, on my way out of the country.”

Grace kelly

In 1942, Kate really was the woman of the year. Having collaborated on the story with a playwright, she brought the idea for the film to the studio heads at MGM. She demanded a fixed sum for her services as well as for the story writers. When the terms were met, she also chose her director, Stevens, and co-star, Tracy.

“I was fearless…and lawless.”

katharine hepburn

Woman of the Year (1942) was Kate’s first film with Spencer Tracy, and it was so successful that it led to a series of films they made together, (nine in total) as well as the blossoming of their legendary romance. Kate also signed a contract with MGM during the making of the film.

The Philadelphia Stories

When Grace Kelly set out for New York to pursue her acting career, she applied and was accepted to the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York City. After making her Broadway debut and completing her training at the academy, she played Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story for her commencement performance.

Images: https://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/HolyCinema/archives/2018/02/09/3-good-reasons-why-you-should-skip-the-fifty-shades-trequel-and-see-high-society-instead-this-v-day (left); https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/fashion/10-of-grace-kelly-s-most-beautiful-on-screen-outfits-21124 (right)

In 1956, Grace was cast in the film version of the play with a few changes. High Society, as it was now called, was a splashy Technicolor musical, made in the grand MGM fashion. As Tracy Lord, Grace was given a duet to sing with co-star Bing Crosby. MGM wanted to bring in a singer to dub Grace, but Bing insisted that Grace had a good voice and that she could carry her part. The result was pure magic! Grace and Bing’s tender duet, “True Love”, won a gold record – an amazing feat for someone unknown as a singer.

High Society turned out to be Grace’s last film in Hollywood – a fine swan song for the actress who in five, short years rose to the top. When filming was complete she started making preparations to leave America to marry her fiance, Prince Rainier of Monaco.

In 1939, Kate was at an all time low in her career. She had just endured a series of flops which had earned her the label, “box office poison.” She was determined to make a come back and turn things around. A friend of hers, Philip Barry, had just the thing. He wrote a play with her in mind for the lead character. The Philadelphia Story opened on Broadway and was a smash with Kate playing Tracy Lord, the haughty, flighty socialite. Kate had made a risky business move in the venture, but it paid off. She did not ask for a salary, and instead asked for a percentage of the play’s profits. Kate’s boyfriend at the time was the multi millionaire Howard Hughes. He purchased the film rights to the play for her, setting her next move in motion.

Kate sold the rights to MGM studio chief, Louis B. Mayer, for $250,000. Other studios had offered her more, but Kate wasn’t after money; she wanted creative control. In exchange Kate got her pick of the director, producer, cast, screenwriter, and she would play the lead once again.

The Philadelphia Story (1940) became Kate’s ticket back into the ranks of beloved star, and she continued acting into her eighties. She said of her character, “I gave her life, and she gave me back my career.” The film won two Oscars and endures as one of the most loved classics of all time.

Icon Status

Images: Pinterest (left); https://baghunter.com/blogs/news/princess-grace-kelly-history-of-hermes-kelly-bag (middle); Pinterest (right)

Grace is known for her classic, feminine, elegant style. Whether a star or a princess, she always dressed the part beautifully. When she became a bride, she stunned the world with her wedding dress, forever setting the prototype for bridal wear. When pregnant with her first child, she used her beloved Hermes handbag to hide her baby bump. Shortly thereafter, it became known as the “Kelly bag” and remains as such till this day.

Image: http://hamptonroadsfashionandstyle.com/2014/09/top-10-style-icons-of-all-times.html (left)

Kate never followed anyone else’s style – she created her own. She brought menswear inspired clothing into the spotlight, making it more fashionably acceptable for women. Kate loved wearing wide leg trousers, loafers, blazers, and collared shirts. These looks were worn by Kate in her films and her fans imitated her style, setting a trend that has lasted for decades.

And there you have it…two extraordinary ladies that made their place in history by living their lives unapologetically, with a lot more in common than one might think.

Thank you for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!