Hans Christian Andersen (1952): A Fairy-Tale Feast for the Eyes, Ears, and Soul

“Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.”

H. C. Andersen

This movie is about a spinner of tales, a dreamer of dreams. In order to appreciate the delightful, colorful, smorgasbord that awaits, one must remember that this movie makes no claim in being an accurate biographical account of Andersen’s life. In fact, the title card says it is a fairy tale about the author himself.

Danny Kaye plays the title character. He is lovable, innocent, and optimistic. He is also sensitive and dreamy-eyed and this is where the plot of the film comes in.

Hans disrupts the town he lives in by distracting the children from their schoolwork with his stories. Kicked out of town, he leaves for the grand city of Copenhagen only to fall for Doro, a beautiful ballerina (Zizi Jeanmaire in her film debut) who is wed to her demanding choreographer (Farley Granger). Where and when will outsider Hans find his place in the world?

I love how this film clearly illustrates the impact Hans’s stories have on those around him. To the children he imparts joy, adding more to life than just schoolwork in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” To some he gives comfort as in “The Ugly Duckling” and “Thumbelina.” When Hans writes “The Little Mermaid” ballet for Doro it becomes a hit for the ballet company and a turning point in their relationship.

For me this movie is like a warm hug. I grew up watching it and singing along to the many delightful songs. Its beauty comes from the simplicity in the story line and Hans’s amiable nature wonderfully displayed by Danny Kaye. The gorgeous Technicolor, stunning direction by Charles Vidor, and cinematography by Harry Stradling doesn’t hurt either 😉 The Little Mermaid Ballet is one of my favorite dance sequences in the movies. The staging is unique, creative, and the choreography beautifully suggests a mermaid’s underwater movements.

Frank Loesser’s memorable score brilliantly inhabit Hans’s world adding to the dreamy quality that blurs reality and fantasy. Composer-lyricist Loesser, whose star was ascending in the music world, was Goldwyn’s choice to write the songs for the film. In 1949, he won the Oscar for “Baby, Its Cold Outside” and the following year he had tremendous success with Guys and Dolls on Broadway. When Goldwyn bought the film rights for the show, he also signed Loesser for Hans Christian Andersen.

In a few ways this movie reminds me of The Red Shoes (1948). The tale of “The Red Shoes” was written by Andersen. Both movies were filmed in Technicolor, contain gorgeous ballet sequences, and share similar themes. If you enjoy The Red Shoes (and who doesn’t?) you might enjoy Hans Christian Andersen as well.

Lastly, I would recommend this movie even for those who aren’t fans of Danny Kaye’s comedic style. The way he interacts with children is a joy to behold and the drama in the script allows him to show more range as an actor, giving one a better picture of the man of many talents.

This movie is perfect for a rainy day, and for those inevitable days when you and I feel lower than low. It will perk you right up and give you something to smile about. Who could ask for more than that?

This post is my contribution to The Classic Literature on Film Blogathon hosted by Paul of Silver Screen Classics. My thanks go out to Paul for letting me participate in this event. Click here, here, and here to read the rest of the entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

5 Reasons Why I Admire Esther Williams

My love for Esther Williams began when I was about ten years old while watching Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949), the one movie my family owned starring Esther. Although Esther had only one very short and simple swimming sequence, I was enraptured by her. As a girl who loved everything to do with mermaids (and to be honest, still does), I would then pretend I was Esther in our family swimming pool, mimicking her routine as best I could.

Esther was everything my ten year old self wanted to be – talented, beautiful, intelligent, and strong.

As a teenager I had the opportunity to rent more of scoured the shelves for Esther’s movies from my local library. Dangerous When Wet (1953) particularly stands out in my mind with the unforgettable Tom and Jerry sequence. Others included Neptune’s Daughter (1949), Pagan Love Song (1950), and Bathing Beauty (1944).

A few years ago I purchased a set of Esther’s movies distributed by TCM. Upon viewing these films again I discovered the magic had not faded. I was still captivated by Esther – her grace, style, and the amazing ballets. Wanting to to learn more about the making of these films led me to Esther’s delightful and eye-opening autobiography, Million Dollar Mermaid.

In these pages I discovered that Esther was not only an athletic, glamorous movie star who exemplified an unshakable work ethic, she also had the courage to match it.

5 Reasons Why I Admire Esther Williams

1. Her ability to find a constant in times of trouble

In Esther’s book she recounts a time in her teenage years when she was sexually abused by a trusted, adopted member of the family. Frightened to reveal his identity because of his threats, she kept this to herself for two years. Having been chosen to be part of a prestigious athletic club, she used her practice and training time to escape from reality. In the water, she found her source of comfort. Dominating the water also gave her a sense of control and a semblance of strength.

Here, at least in the pool, knifing through the water, I could be in control, I would be safe – for the moment.”

2. She was the catalyst for the creation of a genre

The Aquacade at the 1939 New York World’s Fair

In the 30’s and 40’s, synchronized swimming gained popularity due to Billy Rose’s Aquacade, a water show that drew in huge crowds and dazzled the public (in which Esther once was the lead female swimmer).

In the movies, a few musicals featured synchronized swimming, such as the Busby Berkeley sequences in The Kid from Spain (1932) and Footlight Parade (1933). But with Esther came the addition of Technicolor and the birth of the aqua musical.

Bathing Beauty (1944)

When Esther Williams signed a contract with MGM in 1941, the studio welcomed their new star with her own stage, Stage 30, and a twenty foot deep swimming pool equipped with a hydraulic lift. Little did Esther know that during her career at MGM she would become a top box office attraction in the 40’s and 50’s, earning the title America’s Mermaid.

3. She loved what she did

Although her job was not an easy one and required hours upon hours of being in the water, insane preparations to make her “waterproof,” and dangerous on-screen stunts, you would never know it for Esther always had a huge smile on her face. Despite the difficulties, she wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

I genuinely loved swimming and being underwater. It appeared as if I had invited the audience into the water with me, and it conveyed the sensation that being in there was absolutely delicious.”

4. She became an advocate for her sport

Bathing Beauty (1944)

According to Esther, “a year after Bathing Beauty (1944), the first synchronized swimming meet was held in Chicago. Then, in 1955, synchronized swimming became a recognized event, and was named a demonstration sport in 1956.” After that it was a struggle for the sport to be accepted into the Olympics. For years it was looked on as nothing more than a showbiz act.

Finally, in 1984, synchronized swimming made it to the Olympic games, and NBC called upon Esther to be a commentator.

I was touched to realize how these girls had seen those movies and gotten together in their little groups and wanted to swim pretty and not fast. They created a sport and went all over the world to teach it and sell it. I was proud to be there when it came into the Olympics. I was proud to be an inspiration, a godmother to a sport.”

5. She never quit the race

While her onscreen persona was one of scrupulous perfection, her real life was far from it. Despite troubled marriages, several on-set life threatening incidents, and criticism from those who did not appreciate Esther’s hard work and dedication to her art and sport, she never gave up.

During some periods in her life she doubted her own importance and abilities. To be a respected actress was something she craved as she was constantly berated about her acting. Over time she realized her unique talent, embraced it, and looked back fondly on all the life experiences she had been given as a result.

I guess that’s what I was trying to tell those Olympic champions when I told them that when they ran into life’s problems, they should never despair, even after temporary discouragement or defeat. I told them they should call upon their inner spirit to see them through. We can’t all win Olympic gold medals. Even I never won one. But the message applies to all of us because each of us in our own way has races to run or swim. And with sufficient endurance and courage, we all can achieve some kind of victory in our lives.”

Please forgive the awful quality of the video, otherwise it is simply delightful!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Rose Marie (1954): Love Amidst the Rockies

Tomboy meets manly man, falls for his charm, and becomes a “lady” for him. Sound familiar?

Rose Marie has shades of two other highly esteemed musicals of the 50’s – MGM’s Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and Warner Brothers’ Calamity Jane (1953), in which a tomboy gets transformed into a lady. Interestingly, these films also share the same leading man, Howard Keel. What makes Rose Marie unique however, is the style of the music, the casting of the heroine, and the ending of the story.

This 1954 adaptation of Rudolf Friml and Herbert Stothart’s operetta, Rose-Marie, was MGM’s third time bringing this story to the big screen. The first film, now considered to be lost, (1928) was a silent with Joan Crawford playing the lead. The second and best-known version, (1936) starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, gave the team their signature song, “Indian Love Call.” Each time the film has been re-made, the story has changed, but the 1954 version bears close resemblance to the original operetta. While the film only retained three of the songs from the original operetta, it did add five others. The duet “I Have the Love” is exceptionally lovely.

Taking us on this journey into the Canadian wilderness and into the heart of Rose Marie is the lovely Ann Blyth. As the titular character, Ann is sassy and independent, while still retaining her feminine charm. She is the perfect blend of innocence and fire. Unlike Betty Hutton’s Annie Oakley and Doris Day’s Calamity Jane, Ann Blyth’s Rose Marie is not larger than life; quite the contrary. Ann plays the part in an understated fashion. She brings out Rose Marie’s naivety, and her plight to find her proper place in the world. I think this is what made her so wonderful in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948) – her ability to portray a character who is innocent and naive about certain things, but also very vulnerable and emotionally intelligent at the same time. And to play that character in a likable way that does not come across as fake, contrived, or cloying.

Note: I enjoy Betty’s Annie and Doris’s Jane as well; however, I like to note different acting styles and character interpretations. I love the individual qualities each one possesses and appreciate each of them for what they are. The differences are what makes each special, unique, and exciting to watch. We move on… 🙂

Rounding out the cast is Howard Keel, Fernando Lamas, Bert Lahr, and Marjorie Main. The most notable for me was Bert Lahr. I believe this is the second film I’ve seen him in. The first, of course, as the incomparable Cowardly Lion in Oz. He does have a number which is fun to see and makes some of his lion grunts and sounds.

Howard Keel and Fernando Lamas add their rich baritone voices to the mix while vying for the hand of Rose Marie. Keel is well cast as the good-hearted Mountie and Lamas as the ambiguous trapper. In my eyes, these two couldn’t be more opposite – all the more fitting for the story.

MGM pulled out the stops by filming Rose Marie in the Canadian Rockies, and it is simply breathtaking. The gorgeous scenery filmed in eye-popping color enhances the realism of the story and the plight of the Mounties. In addition, the cinematography by Paul Vogel (High Society, 1956) is beautiful and engaging. The film is also the first movie musical to be released in the new widescreen format at that time, CinemaScope.

I had to watch this film twice to fully appreciate it because it took me be surprise. All in all, Rose Marie (1954) is very enjoyable, featuring one of the most beautiful duets, talented singers, nature’s beauty, and produced by the most prestigious studio of Hollywood’s Golden Age. If any of those mentioned above make your heart skip a beat, this film is calling you…

This post is my contribution to the O Canada! Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and Speakeasy. Thanks, ladies, for letting me participate! Head over here to read the rest of the posts honoring this vast and beautiful country.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Grace Kelly: Her Secret Hideaway [UPDATE]

Hello, readers! Some of you may remember an early post on The Classic Movie Muse where I recounted my visit to Newport, Rhode Island, and the story behind Grace Kelly’s stay there while filming High Society (1956), her last Hollywood film. If you haven’t read that post, click here.

Recently I went back to Newport and discovered MORE of this soon-to-be princess’s hideaway…

I was there on a glorious sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, when to my surprise a whole new area of the beach appeared to me. This time around I was visiting at low tide, and the water that had hidden the shore on my last visit had gone, leading me to discover a new, expansive rocky cove.

I noticed an escarpment that looked like it had been traversed many times in the past, but not recently. Was this the path Grace took to and from the beach before the inn staff had built the staircase for her?

As I said in my initial post, I feel so honored to be able to walk in the footsteps of Grace Kelly, and no visit is complete without a time of reflection and thinking of Grace herself. She was a great lady who went after what she wanted with abandon. She was loving, passionate, and gentle. A star whose light on earth was dimmed too soon, but will continue to glow in the cinematic heavens forever.

It’s hard for me to believe how this place, a cherished spot of one of the most famous personalities in history, is still so obscure and unknown; but to me, that is part of the mystery and the beauty that is Grace Kelly Beach.

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!

Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956): How One Woman’s Convictions Changed a Country

Fortunately…I had my Deborah Kerr. She was heaven. She was the perfect Mrs. Anna. She understood Mrs. Anna completely. She understood the relationship between the two. And this is really what made the picture work.”

Yul Brynner

20th Century Fox’s production of The King and I (1956) is a sparkling gem in the crown of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. The terrific cast, memorable tunes, and universal message holds an undying appeal that continues to touch generation after generation.

While at first glance one would think the movie belongs to Yul Brynner, after all he has been identified with the king ever since originating the role on Broadway in 1951, and even the title of the film implies this; however, it is the pairing of Brynner with his leading lady, Deborah Kerr, and the chemistry between them that makes the movie truly come alive and take wing.

For us today, it is hard to imagine that Deborah Kerr was not the first choice for the role of the prim and proper English schoolteacher. Vivien Leigh was considered, but because of health issues she was not able to take on the project.

A notorious perfectionist, Yul Brynner was quite pleased with the casting of Kerr after having met and seeing her perform on Broadway in Tea and Sympathy. The two became good friends with a pleasant working relationship. There were even rumors of a romance between the two. Deborah Kerr later remembered,

“It was Yul who was the solid inspiration behind the movie. He knew and loved every line of the story and every note of the music, and it came out so well due to his insistence that this and that had to be done the way he wanted. He could be difficult, but only because he knew he was right.”

Deborah Kerr, as Anna Leonowens, not only beautifully holds the central heart of the film, she holds her own against the larger than life portrayal of Yul Brynner’s King of Siam. Her character is strong, uncompromising, and just as stubborn as the king; but she is also a lady of principle, propriety, and tenderness. She is the catalyst for change, a breath of fresh air in a place that is stale and harsh. All of these nuances come through in her performance making her a force to be reckoned with.

Anna’s differences with the king set off fireworks, both politically and sexually, resulting in one of the greatest and most romantic scenes in cinematic history – the “Shall We Dance” number. The two draw close together and majestically whirl around the dance floor in an unforgettable scene of unspoken joy, love, and desire.

Beneath the spectacle and grandeur of the film is the underlying principle of freedom and equality. Anna encourages the freedom of the Siamese people and the equality of women in every way she can. She supports Tuptim (Rita Moreno) in her desire to be with Lun Tha, and gives her Uncle Tom’s Cabin to read, inspiring her to dream of and believe in her chance of freedom. Anna encourages the people to think for themselves and perhaps most importantly, she inspires Prince Chulalongkorn’s decree that there will no longer be any groveling on the floor before the king, no doubt leading to more modernization for the people in his upcoming reign.

There is much to enjoy in the The King and I. The screenplay is marvelous, the music is delightful, and the sets and costumes are beautiful, but each time I watch it I’m always struck by Deborah Kerr’s brilliant portrayal of a courageous woman who influenced the change of a nation.

Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr’s handprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

This post is my contribution to The Second Deborah Kerr Blogathon hosted by Maddy of Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Thanks for letting me participate, Maddy! Check out her great blog and the rest of the entries by clicking here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Grace Kelly: Her Secret Hideaway

I love walking in the woods, on the trails, along the beaches. I love being part of nature. I love walking alone. It is therapy. One needs to be alone to recharge one’s batteries.

— Grace Kelly

Soon-to-be princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly was 26 years old when she agreed to marry Prince Rainier. She was at the top of her game having just won an Oscar for The Country Girl, and she held Hollywood and the world in the palm of her hand. Before settling into her royal role, however, she had one more role to play – that of Tracy Lord in the MGM film High Society.

Hollywood hit the road and headed to Newport, Rhode Island, for on location shooting and Grace became a summer resident at the elegant and historic Castle Hill Inn. She secured a cottage of her own with a small beach only steps away from her room. Seeking a place for relaxation and privacy, Grace would visit the beach and enjoy her free time there.

The staff of the inn noticed how often Grace would venture down to the beach and how unwieldy it was for her to climb back up the rocky hill. They soon had a staircase built for her to make her hideaway all the more accessible, and it was christened “Grace Kelly Beach.”

-Images are my own unless otherwise noted-

When I visited Grace Kelly’s beach I couldn’t help but think of what Grace was thinking and feeling during this time of her life. After all, she was about to leave her home country to become a ruler in a foreign one. Was she reticent about leaving her friends and family behind, having to learn another language, and having to live up to the public’s expectations?

Grace arriving at the 1956 Academy Awards ceremonies-her last appearance in Hollywood as a working actress. A month later she wed Prince Rainier.

Image: Public Domain

Grace Kelly brought undeniable warmth, charm, and elegance wherever she went; although she is gone, she is not forgotten. Grace is one of my favorite actresses and it was both a thrill and an honor for me to discover and visit a place that was so special to her. If you’re a fan, be sure and capture this piece of royal Hollywood history for yourself!

This post is my contribution to The 5th Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon hosted by Musings of a Classic Film Addict, The Flapper Dame, and The Wonderful World of Cinema. Thank you, ladies, for hosting this Grace-filled event!

Be sure to stop by their blogs and read the other lovely posts honoring the one and only Grace Kelly. For day 1 click here, day 2 click here, and day 3 click here.

Want more Grace? Check out my post Grace and Kate: The Princess and The First Lady of Cinema, then if that’s not enough, read about Grace as the ultimate Hitchcock blonde in my review of Hitchcock’s Heroines by Caroline Young.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Fashion Inspiration: Kim Novak in Bell, Book, and Candle (1958)

As part of my Halloween viewing for this year, I saw Bell, Book, and Candle for the first time. This film has been on my radar as the cast includes the remarkable duo of Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak (and was released in the same year as Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo, also featuring the two leads).

In Bell, Novak plays Gil, a witch who uses her powers to do her bidding and to catch Jimmy Stewart for her own. The film starts off with a scene on Christmas Day and makes for some cozy, cold weather viewing. The fashion reflects this as Gil is ensconced in gorgeous capes, cloaks, and gloves.

While the Academy award nominated costumes were designed by Jean Louis, whose most famous creations included Rita Hayworth’s gown in Gilda, Marlene Dietrich’s elaborate stage wear, and Marilyn Monroe’s barely there “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress, all of Gil’s clothing in the film look extremely comfortable to wear and have a cool, relaxed vibe while still being elegant, refined, and stylish.

As I was completely charmed by this movie and fell in love with Kim’s character and her amazing wardrobe, I thought it might be fun to gather some inspiration from Gil’s looks that can easily be incorporated into your own winter wardrobe and holiday looks for this year. Enough talk…on with the visuals!

black and red ensemble

When we are introduced to Gil, she is wistfully contemplating her life in her shop while the snow descends steadily on the streets of New York City. She is wearing a black sweater with black cigarette pants and a red tunic – a festive and cozy outfit for Christmas Day.

leopard print cape

Images: https://alisonkerr.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bell-book-candle-leopard-print-cape.jpg (left); https://theclassicmoviemuse.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/91c2e-kimnovakleopardcoat.jpg (right)

I cannot get enough of Gil’s leopard print cape. Seriously, how gorgeous is that?! Luckily for us, leopard is all over the fashion scene. Not into capes (or can’t find one)? Pull out a coat instead, or just keep it in the accessories. I love these casual reinterpretations of Gil’s look, totally appropriate for a fun day time outing.

Images: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/4e/74/12/4e741296fb5f7df861cf8ec1000838bd.jpg (left); https://the-sister-studio.com/2018/11/leopard-shoes-sweaters-under-50/ (right)

Here’s a look for the office that can transition easily to date night with Gil’s signature style written all over it.

black and leopard outfit

Image: https://alisonkerr.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bell-book-candle-black-snood-outfit-with-glimpses-of-leopard-lining.jpg

Image: https://alisonkerr.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bell-book-candle-black-snood-skirt-suit.jpg

Gil’s leopard cape is reversible as we can see in this scene where she wears an all black ensemble with only hints of the print peeking through. This is a somber scene in the film, accented perfectly by Gil’s ensemble. Her outfit is sophisticated but subdued.

Image: Pinterest

Keep the rest of this outfit simple and let the leopard do the talking. Pair black basics with a variety of textures for visual interest and top it off with some fun accessories. Neutrals never looked so chic.

burgundy velvet dress

Images: https://professorpski.tumblr.com/post/182580123945/what-the-modern-witch-wears (left); https://serenitywomble.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/reddress1.png (right)

https://time.com/3821160/life-magazine-animal-covers/

Gil wears a burgundy velvet backless dress with jeweled bangles on the sleeve for her night out at the Zodiac Club. It’s when she invites Shep (Stewart) to her apartment that the magic begins. Velvet (or velour) is the go-to for holiday wear from tops, to pants, to dresses, and is not hard to find around this time of year. If you pick a dress, go for a high neckline and a lower back, and don’t forget the bangles to recreate Gil’s look.

Images: Pinterest

I hope you enjoyed looking at some of the pieces in Gil’s wardrobe with me. I only picked a few out of the offerings on display. You’ll have to watch the film to see the rest!

Italian poster for the film: Imdb

Bell, Book, and Candle is great fun. In addition to an excellent cast and a memorable score, there is another added bonus. If you’re like me and struggle to find a semi-festive flick to watch between Halloween and Christmas, (or you love Halloween so much you don’t want to let it go yet) let me tell you, your search is over. Bell, Book, and Candle is the perfect “in between” movie! So get your cozy sweaters out, grab your furry friend, and prepare to be enchanted by this wintry, magical tale.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Niagara (1953) – Marilyn and the Falls

Image via: https://www.hojobythefalls.com/content/marilyn-monroe

The more powerful force of nature? I’ll let you watch and decide! Niagara is the film that put Marilyn Monroe on the map. Through the character of Rose Loomis, she established the persona and style that would follow for the rest of her career.

Niagara concerns two couples on holiday at one of the most romantic places on earth, Niagara Falls; however, the two couples couldn’t be more different. Polly (Jean Peters) and Ray Cutler (Casey Adams) are there on a delayed honeymoon and are as happy as newlyweds. Rose (Marilyn Monroe) and George Loomis (Joseph Cotten) have a strained relationship and are there to regain marital bliss. The suspense builds as Polly becomes involved with the unhappy couple and notices that there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Niagara is one of the few film noirs that were shot in Technicolor, and boy, does it deliver. With the setting of the infamous falls, the addition of color is absolutely essential and heightens the drama in this suspense thriller.

The film takes full advantage of its magnificent setting by masterfully showcasing the natural beauty and danger of the falls. Niagara perfectly captures the feeling of being at the site, and the thundering of the rushing water is never far away.

The cinematography in this film is stunning. Yes, black and white noir films are beautiful and iconic; but when done artfully, color can have its own luminous quality. We can thank Joe MacDonald, the cinematographer, for that.

Joe MacDonald
image via: IMDB

MacDonald was born in Mexico and came to Hollywood in the 1920’s working as an assistant camera man. By the 1940’s he was a full fledged cinematographer at 20th Century Fox. Among the movies he filmed were My Darling Clementine (1946), Call Northside 777 (1948), and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). Though he didn’t win (a three time nominee) any accolades during his lifetime, MacDonald holds the honor of being the first Mexican born cinematographer, and left behind a legacy of seventy-five films.

Marilyn absolutely glows throughout this movie. Not only visually, but in her role as well. She portrays a woman with a lust for life, ready to do anything to be with the man she loves. A very broad character indeed; and yet, she plays the part with such subtlety. Her performance is found in a look, a roll of the shoulder, a smirk. It is a shame that she didn’t go on to make another film noir as she is quite enjoyable to watch in this one.

Henry Hathaway and Marilyn Monroe
Image via: IMDB

Henry Hathaway, the director of Niagara, said that Marilyn was “marvelous to work with, very easy to direct and terrifically ambitious to do better. And bright, really bright…” Hathaway commented to a columnist in 1952, “She’s the best natural actress I’ve directed, and I go back. I’ve worked with Barbara LaMar, Jean Harlow, Rene Adoree-right up to today…”

Henry Hathaway learned his craft from the best. In the 1920’s he was an assistant director to such notables as de Mille and Victor Fleming. Hathaway made his own directorial debut in 1932 and became known for his work in westerns, including How the West was Won (1962), and noirs, such as Fourteen Hours (1951). He was at his best in action sequences, location shooting, and excelled at driving the narrative tension. Niagara stands as a fine example of the talented director’s work.

Let’s get to the rest of the cast! Joseph Cotten and Jean Peters work very well together on screen, creating a rapport between their characters and with us, the audience. This was a lovely piece of casting; however, Casey Adams is another story. He might have been brought in to provide some relief and lightness to the dark plot, but his style could have been better used elsewhere. The dialogue he was given does not help matters either. For me, the film does lose its steam about three-quarters of the way in (for repeat viewings only; the first time I saw it I was riveted.)

Jean Peters and Joseph Cotten

Niagara never gets old. It contains wonderful performances, standout moments, stunning visuals, and a gripping story line. All these reasons and more make it a film that’s not to be missed!

Legacy

According to film historian Sylvia Stoddard, there was a new system invented to make filming at the falls possible for the equipment. “In order to keep the camera lens free of water drops and mist during filming, a lens that could be kept dry and clear in any kind of weather was developed at a cost of $10,000…Cinematographer Joe MacDonald predicted it would be in wide use shortly and was worthy of a technical achievement Oscar.”

Marilyn’s iconic pink dress, designed by Dorothy Jeakins, was in demand the moment audience members saw it on the big screen. Since then it has been copied, sold, and served as inspiration for designers.

Side note: (This shade of pink reminds me of Esther William’s bathing suit in Bathing Beauty (1944), our first look at the swimming star in Technicolor. Was this Hollywood’s “look at me” color?)

image via: books.google.com

Niagara contains the “longest walk in cinema history” – a view of Marilyn walking away from the camera, which used 116 feet of film.

A great companion to this movie would be the book, Falling for Marilyn: The Lost Niagara Collection by Jock Carroll. Mr. Carroll spent a few weeks with Marilyn in Niagara Falls on the set and behind the scenes. He shares many photographs he took along with his reflections on the time he spent with the young starlet.

You can buy today’s movie by clicking here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Book Nook – Hitchcock’s Heroines by Caroline Young

Hitchcock’s Heroines, by Caroline Young, is a beautiful coffee table style book that is written from a unique perspective – that of the leading ladies and their working relationship with the famous director. This topic has been discussed in the past, but never with such style and visual splendor.

This book takes us on a guided tour of (almost) each film that Hitchcock made. Each film is given eight spreads which cover the production of the movie, how each actress was cast, her personality and style preferences, and what she thought of the Master of Suspense. In addition, the plot of the film and a brief biography of each actress are clearly and neatly presented.

Full page black and white and color images abound, making this a real treat for the eyes. There are numerous costume sketches, behind the scenes photos, costume test and production photos – enough to warrant repeat viewings of this book.

what did i enjoy?

I love how Hitchcock’s stylistic choices for his characters are discussed in detail and how these choices contributed to the storytelling. I also enjoyed learning how the actress’ personal style choices came through in the final design for her character.

Edith Head, the legendary costume designer, gets some time to shine in this book as well, as she was part of Hitchcock’s “dream team” and worked on some of his most successful films. It’s great to hear her personal thoughts about collaborating with the director and how she worked to make his creative visions come to life.

what would i change?

I was surprised that not every Hitchcock film was included in this book. The one that immediately comes to mind is I Confess along with Strangers on a Train. Granted, those films are not as well known as The Birds and Vertigo but I still would have liked to see them included and learned the behind the scenes facts about them as well.

who is this book for?

I’d recommend this book for any fans of Hitchcock or Grace Kelly. Since Grace has been called” the ultimate Hitchcock blonde” there are lots of photos and commentary about her and Hitch’s collaborations, making this a must for any Grace fan. I’d also recommend this book for those interested in costume design, Old Hollywood style, and female character studies.

want to know more?

Those who would like to know more about this topic might enjoy Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and his Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto. I haven’t read Spellbound, but Hitchcock’s Heroines seems like a coffee table version of Spoto’s book.

Warning: this book DOES contain spoilers! If you want to avoid them I’d suggest watching the movie you’re interested in learning about before reading the related section.

You can buy today’s book, Hitchcock’s Heroines, by clicking here.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart in a promo shoot for Rear Window (1954)

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!