December 2008


Year: 1929
Director: Frank Borzage
Cast: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Guinn Williams, Paul Fix, Hedwiga Reicher

In 1929, the silent film was coming to an end. Really, it managed to go out in a blaze of glory with films like The Single Standard and The Kiss. Lucky Star was one of those final, glorious silent films. It’s also one of the quintessential Borzage films in terms of themes and style. It was his third film with Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. But this point these two had become the ultimate Borzage pair: the troubled, hardened waif and the arrogant man who manage to soften each other’s hearts.

Mary (Gaynor) is a dirty rough farm girl who takes daily beatings from her mother and likes to steal and lie. Tim (Farrell) defends her one day when he thinks Wrenn (Williams) is cheating her out of money. When he finds out she was lying, her “gives her a lickin'”. Before Mary can get her revenge, war breaks out and Tim enlists. He’s injured on the front and comes home paralyzed. Knowing he’s back, Mary goes to his house to finally get her revenge, but the two end up talking and becoming friends, with Tim cleaning Mary up and teaching her to be decent.

While both Seventh Heaven and Street Angel were more Janet Gaynor’s films, Lucky Star definitely belongs to Charles Farrell. His performance is really quite heartbreaking. Early on, his spirits are surprisingly high for a man who’s been paralyzed. He wants to fix broken things since he doesn’t think he can fix himself. Mary becomes one of those broken things, and he soon sees the diamond in the rough and falls in love with her. It’s not until he discovers his love, and realizes the fact that he can’t be with her because of his condition, that it begins to weigh on him. In the end, though, that love only inspires him to try to learn how to walk again, however hopeless it might seem. Farrell was an extremely charming actor, and he pulled off those arrogant guy roles very well. He gives Tim so much heart that watching that heart break feels very real. This is truly a story of the triumph of the human spirit, and in the hands of a lesser actor, I don’t think that would come through as beautiful, or an such an inspiring way.

While the film certainly belongs to Farrell, Gaynor gives a very strong performance, as usual. In her earliest scenes, Mary is adorable in her immorality. This is kind of an essential thing, because it makes her development into the sweet,happy girl that Tim falls in love with believable. But her performance is also quite wrenching. She’s such a lonely girl, and there are moments with Tim that are so beautiful, where she just seems like she can’t believe someone loves her. These are two damaged misfits, and they end up fitting together and fixing each other absolutely perfectly.

Lucky Star doesn’t have quite the visual flair that Seventh Heaven and Street Angel have. Overall, it takes place in much more intimate settings. The two main sets are Tim and Mary’s simple houses. There are some beautifully filmed outdoors scenes, but Lucky Star is just a much more simple film, visually, than most Borzage efforts.

But its themes of transcendant love that overcomes all obstacles and makes people better than they were before come through crystal clear. Borzage was an undying romantic, and it shows through in Lucky Star, maybe better than it does in any of his other silent films.

By Katie Richardson

This morning I opened up the Murnau, Borzage, and Fox set that I knew I was getting. It’s so beautiful and amazing.

So, first of all, it’s huge. It’s not just a big DVD set. The case is probably 8 in by 9 in. The top pops off, and inside of it is the case of DVDs, that’s kind of like a photo album.

In the front is a picture of FW Murnau. Then each page has a film still on one side and 3 DVDs on the other.

And held in the front on each side is a book. One is about Murnau, Borzage, and Fox, and the other is about Murnau’s lost film 4Devils

I already had DVD copies of Bad Girl, Seventh Heaven, and Street Angel. I put in the Bad Girl DVD from this set, and the transfer is just beautiful. Much better quality than the one I got from freemoviesondvd.com. And I’m pretty excited, because now that I have these movies in the set, I can give my old copies to a friend. And I just love sharing Borzage with people.

Once I go through the whole set (which will probably be quite awhile) I’ll post a full DVD review.

So, did anybody else get some totally awesome presents?

Hot damn, I love Christmas. The snow, the lights, the songs, the presents. Especially the presents.

I got the best gift last night at about 6 pm when our power, which had been out since Friday, came back on. But that’s not classic movie related, so let’s move on.

I happen to be getting the one thing I wanted most this year, the Murnau, Borzage, and Fox DVD set with a bazillion movies and books. I know I’m getting. It’s the only thing I asked for. And I ordered it myself. With my mom’s credit card. So, technically it’s a present from her. That I bought myself.

The DVD set might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. From Murnau, it has Sunrise and City Girl. From Borzage, it has Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, Lazybones, Lucky Star, They Had to See Paris, Liliom, Song o’ My Heart, Bad Girl, After Tomorrow, Young America. It also has a documentary. And on those DVDs is also a reconstruction of Murnau’s 4 Devils and the surviving footage of Borzage’s The River. AND it comes with two books. My god.

Really, that’s all I want. I know I’m getting other stuff, because my mom has the guilt thing where she thinks we need to have a bazillion presents under the tree. But that’s all I want.

But…. in the hypothetical Christmas list…. I got one wish this year already when TCM finally aired Man’s Castle. Now I want it on DVD. Special edition DVD. With extras and commentaries (hey… I could do the commentary… just sayin’….) Maybe a Criterion release….

Christmas is also about more than presents. It’s also about Christmas movies. I adore Christmas movies. There are the old favorites. A Christmas Story, Muppet Christmas Carol. But there are those lesser known pieces of lovely.

We discussed Bachelor Mother on the Christmas podcast. Ginger Rogers give an excellent performance opposite David Niven and an adorable baby. It draws some parallels to the story of the virgin birth, so it’s kind of a Christmas movie more in theme then in time setting (though it does take place during the holiday season).

Another Ginger Rogers Christmas movie, I’ll Be Seeing You, is a little darker in tone, but it’s a really beautiful movie. Rogers plays a convict on furlough for Christmas, and Joseph Cotten plays a soldier suffering from post traumatic stress. They meet, and mend their broken spirits together over the holiday season.

Finally, I love the hell out of the Barbara Stanwyck/Fred MacMurray film Remember the Night. It is technically a comedy, but like I’ll Be Seeing You, it’s more serious in tone. Stanwyck and MacMurray shared such steamy chemistry in Double Indemnity, and their chemistry translates very sweetly to this film.

So, if you have time tonight and tomorrow, seek these movies out. They’re really great for the holiday season. Have a great Christmas!

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Truth be told, my primary Christmas wish this year is for the Denver Broncos to make the playoffs. But in keeping within the obscure classics theme on this site, I have another which is more appropriate. Being a huge fan of Max Ophuls’ The Earrings of Madame de… (1953), I’ve eagerly awaited a proper R1 release of the great director’s rare attempt at a film noir: The Reckless Moment (1949). I’ve heard nothing but good things about the picture and I’m dying to give it a go. Ophuls’ movie stars James Mason and Joan Bennett, two icons of cinema and they’re both among my favorite actors. Reckless marks Bennett’s first matriarch role following a career defined by intriguing single women characters. I wish Sony would get it together and satisfy my request.

I would be lying if I named any picture other than It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) as my favorite Christmas-themed movie. Stewart’s performance is incredible and the scenes between him and Gloria Grahame are splendid. A beautiful story for any time of year, it never fails to lift my spirits when I’m down.

Two other choices that are not so obvious are Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and Holiday Affair (1949). The former is a screwball comedy starring the great Barbara Stanwyck — Babs is my favorite actress) — and the latter is a sweet romance I’ve only recently discovered. The film stars the always fascinating Robert Mitchum and an uber gorgeous Janet Leigh. She’s never looked better on the silver screen. It’s only recently been released on dvd so you won’t have to wait to see it aired on TCM. Give it a spin this holiday season.

By James White

Year: 1948
Director: William Keighley
Cast: Richard Widmark, Mark Stevens, Lloyd Nolan, Barbara Lawrence, Ed Begley

If you’ve taken a look at my other blog ( thoughtfulthinkingthoughts.wordpress.com ) you might know that, of late, I’ve been on a big “I must own every Richard Widmark movie I can get my hands on” kick. It started with just wanting Night and the City and Don’t Bother to Knock. Nowhere I went had them. So, naturally, this led to me buying every single movie they had at Borders. That’s what we call lack of self control, folks. One of those movies was the 1948 noir The Street With No Name, which is a sort of documdrama, supposedyl ripped from real FBI files (I say supposedly because I’m far too lazy to look to see if what they said at the beginning of the movie is true). It definitely has that feel of a The Naked City, only perhaps more movie-y.

Agent Gene Cordell (Stevenes) is recruited to go undercover to help solve some murders and robberies and whatnot. He takes the identity of Gene Manly, and goes to work for crime boss Alec Stiles (Widmark). It doesn’t take too much work to find incriminating evidence against Stiles, but the boss has people in high places that put a wrench in the plans of the FBI, and puts Cordell’s life in danger.

The Street With No Name was made the year after Widmark’s star making role in Kiss of Death, so he was sort of type cast as the bad guy. His performance here isn’t nearly as evil nor as maniacal (no pushing crippled old ladies down the stairs in this one), but he still plays a damn good villain. I love Richard Widmark anyway I can get him, be that villain, hero, anti-hero. But he really does something special with his villains. He was one of the few actors who wasn’t really afraid of alienating the audience or being disliked, which really gave him the power to create some really destestable villains. But he also makes them so electrifying, especially against the somewhat dull good guys, that you’re almost rooting for him.

Mark Stevens is sold in his role. This isn’t a particularly demanding hero role. He’s not a conflicted hero, he doesn’t get taken in by the glamor of the life of crimes. He’s just a good guy doing his job well, and Stevens sells that well enough. The relative dullness of the role really isn’t his fault. It’s just not an excitingly written role.

This is a very straightforward film, made without much flair, probably intentionally so. With professional sounding narration, they really seemed to be going for a non-film, documentary feeling and they succeed. The movie may have been a little more interesting if it had been made as straight up, stylish noir. But as it is, it’s just an interesting story presented in a simple way. Viewed in today’s context, the narration definitely feels a little corny.

I have to admire the movie a bit for really sticking to that docu-drama idea and not throwing a romance in for the sake of it. Agent Cordell is getting no love here. The movie is all about the story of the crime, with no room for romantic frills. The only woman in the cast is Barbara Lawrence, playing Stiles’ abused-yet-still-brassy wife. It’s a role that has little point except to show what an asshole Stiles really is, but Lawrence plays the role well, garnering sympathy for a character that’s not particularly likable.

Overall, this is definitely an excellent film to watch if you’re a Widmark fan. It really showcases his talent, and he’s definitely the best thing about the movie. And if you like these docu-dramas, this is one of the best.

By Katie Richardson

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No, this is clearly not the Kay Francis podcast. Greg is on hiatus for family reasons, so my brother came on board to help me out for the Christmas podcast. Hopefully we’ll have the Kay Francis podcast up soon.

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Year: 1933

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Ruth Chatterton, George Brent, and Ferdinand Gottschalk

Female is a Pre-Code effort that is unlike any other from the early 1930s. Unlike Barbara Stanwyck’s character in Baby Face — who sleeps her way to the top of the corporate ladder — Alison Drake (Ruth Chatterton) is already the CEO of her own automobile manufacturing concern. She is a sexual predator that is the equal of any male you’ve seen in film. A tough no nonsense businesswoman by day, Alison treats her company like a carnal candy store. This female captain of industry surveys her office space daily for potential boy toys amongst her employees. Her modus operandi is to pick a potential lover, invite them to her palatial digs on the premise of important shop talk, and then interrupt any professional discussion with sexual seduction. These young men are intoxicated by her lustful wares and they are left hopelessly under Ms. Drake’s spell. Of course she discards them immediately, even brazenly transferring them elsewhere in the firm if they give her any difficulties the next day.

Our protagonist gets the tables turned on her when she steals a top design engineer from a rival company. Jim Thorne (George Brent) rebuffs her advances which infuriates his new boss. He’s not impressed by her come ons. The female CEO is suddenly without the power of her sex appeal. Not used to losing, Alison pursues Thorne relentlessly until she ultimately wins him over. They fall in and out of love quickly. The engineer wants a conventional woman who will maintain a home and take care of his needs. When he leaves the company, Chatterton’s character is useless on the job. All she can think about is the one that got away.

What ensues is a crazy cross-country search until Ms. Drake is able to find her man at a carnival shooting at targets. How fitting when you consider that hanging out in an amusement park is what they did on their first successful date. Then the bottom sort of falls out of the picture as this tough CEO proclaims that she’s no superwoman and agrees to do the decent thing and marry him. What?! I can only imagine that this was thrown in as a salve to the fragile egos of the male audience. If the filmmakers had not emasculated Alison in the third act, this might have gone down as the best Pre-Code film out there.

There are some excellent production values starting with the Drake mansion. This is a real Frank Lloyd Wright creation in the Hollywood Hills known as the Ennis House. For 1933, its Grecian touches and art deco flavor are quite stirring. Our lead even has an ornate live organ halfway up one of her walls. The swimming pool is a sight to see and provides the setting for one of the funnier moments when the lady of the house rejects one boy because he’s too “poetic” (read: homosexual). Michael Curtiz received the director’s credit even though he was the third helmsman on the picture. William Dieterle got sick and William Wellman came aboard only to get in a dispute with the studio over money. Warner Bros. booted him off the set and brought in Curtiz to finish the project. Another interesting thing to note is that Brent and Chatterton were married in real life during Female. This probably didn’t hurt their onscreen performances which were seamless.

Despite the flawed and jarring reversal in this movie, I’m inclined to recommend it highly. I just love the idea of a strong woman getting away with the same boorish workplace behavior that was second nature to several male managers forever. I’ve really only seen this dynamic in one other film called Disclosure starring Demi Moore and Michael Douglas. But for 1930s America, Chatterton’s in-your-face sexuality must have seemed shocking. Oh, and I actually learned something by watching Female. I now know what it means when I’m with a woman and she casually tosses a pillow on the livingroom floor.

By James White

Today in film, like in regular life, pregnancy is no big deal. There are pregnant characters in film all the time. Movies about being pregnant, movies about giving birth, movies about having a new baby. In this day and age, “which actress is pregnant now?” talk is the most popular type of gossip you can find in the rags.

But back in the earlier days of film, having a baby apparently wasn’t so commonplace. The word “pregnant” was never uttered on screen. In the cases it was a happy thing, they would just say that they were “having a baby”. In unhappy cases, films usually allowed the shocked, uncomfortable silence tell the story.

And women NEVER showed. Apparently, back in the 1930s, babies didn’t actually grow in utero. They must have been like those toys that get bigger as you add water, only with 1930s babies you added air and as soon as they were delivered they ballooned into a regular sized infant.

In pre-code film, there were a lot of cases of women having babies or getting pregnant before marriage. These were usually portrayed as unhappy situations, but sometimes the woman was still able to raise the child happilly. After enforcement of the code began, it seemed like it wasn’t even possible to conceive a child out of wedlock. It was quite awhile before women were allowed to have children outside of happy marriages, and even then, in most cases, they were still married. They had just separated from their husbands.

Yes, pregnancy in classic film is a strange thing. Here are some films with notable, baffling pregnancies.

Mary Pickford isn’t pregnant in Tess of the Storm Country, but she vows to help out a woman who is. Pickford falls in love with the wealthy Lloyd Hughes, whose sister becomes pregnant. Before she can marry the father of her child, he’s killed. So Pickford takes pity on the poor woman, helps her through the pregnancy, and then takes care of the child.

This pregnancy is a classic example of the shame that came along with having a baby out of wedlock. To protect her friend, Pickford allows people to think the child is hers, even risking her relationship with the man she loves. And in those days, a sin like this had to have punishment, and in the end the child dies.

In Bad Girl, Sally Eilers and James Dunn are young lovers during the Depression who marry quickly after meeting and struggle financially, especially once Eilers finds out she’s pregnant. Director Frank Borzage creates a really interesting and intimate drama between these characters based  almost entirely around the pregnancy. Both characters have a hard time handling the idea that they’re going to be parents, and both of them thing that the other doesn’t want the baby.

Eilers becomes pregnant early in the movie, and it’s a very prominent plot point in the film. But she never shows and it’s difficult to keep track of how far along she is until the baby is born. But Borzage’s look at the anxieties and uncertainty of being parents for the first time was a rare look at pregnancy in classic film.

Life Begins is a film all about pregnancy. Hence the title. Loretta Young plays a young married woman who is in jail for murder. She’s also pregnant, and is apparently far enough along that she must be admitted to the maternity ward of a hospital (you’d never know she was that far along, though). It’s there that she meets a whole bunch of other pregnant women, all very different, including brassy showgirl Glenda Farrell.

It’s a very moving film with a lot of top notch performances, but it’s also a really interesting look at the way hospitals worked back then. It’s movies like these that really give you a glimpse into a world that no longer exists. It’s just so strange and baffling the way things were done. First of all, the fact that pregnant women had to be admitted to the hospital months before he due date. Husbands were only allowed to visit their wives at the hospital for an hour or two a day. There were no private rooms for the women.They all had a bed in a large single room. And the husbands weren’t even allowed to be in the delivery room. It’s just such a strange look back.

Pregnancy isn’t the main theme in Beauty For Sale. This is one of those cases where it’s never implicitly stated, just silently and shamefully suggested. The story revolve around the romantic troubles of three friends, and troubles of Florence McKinney is the saddest of all. She’s in love with the boss’s son, having a clandestine affair. When she frantically tries to convince him to marry her, it’s made clear, without words, that she’s pregnant. He promises to marry her, but abandons her the night before the wedding, leaving the country. It’s a small part of the movie, but it’s certainly the most tragic, and Florine McKinney delivers a really fantastic performance.

Beauty For Sale is another example of the “secret shame” pregnancy story lines. The film is full of pre-code goodness, and it balances the lighter side of those ideas (gold digging, whee!) with the darker side (McKinney’s pregnancy) extremely well. The idea is that being pregnant before marriage is so horrible it can’t even be spoken aloud, only alluded to. While it’s wonderfully pre-code, it still takes on the idea that those who sin must be punished (or at least the women who sin), and McKinney’s character meets a tragic fate.

It’s pretty much a rule that I have to write about Man’s Castle at least once a week here, so here we are, filling that quota. It’s one of the most lenient of pre-code films. Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young live together in their Hoovershack, clearly sharing a bed and having a sexual relationship, without being married. Young becomes pregnant. While the revelation comes somewhat late in the film, it’s the main conflict point in the film. And, refreshingly, the conflict has absolutely nothing to do with societal norms and expectations. Frank Borzage couldn’t care less about the social implications of an illegitimate child on these people – it’s hardly the worst thing that’s happening in the world at the time. The conflict is completely between Bill and Trina and what the baby does to their relationship.

It looks like they’re caving to societal expectations by getting married. But as with most Borzage weddings, it doesn’t seem to be a legally binding ceremony. It’s performed by a man who is no longer a minister, with no legal documents being signed. The marriage is completely spiritual (and isn’t even really consummated as such until later in the film when Bill realizes he wants to stay with Trina). In Man’s Castle, pregnancy is not a plot point to shock or hold a mirror up to society. It’s simply a driving force for two characters. While initially it looks like it’s going to drive them apart, the pregnancy just brings them closer together. And we’re given something of Christ-story correlation, when Bill does the math and figures out the baby will be born in December. “Sort of a Christmas present, huh, Bill?” Trina says.

Men In White has perhaps the most controversial use of pregnancy in pre-code film. Clark Gable plays a doctor who is engaged to Myrna Loy. When the couple has an argument, Gable has a one-night stand with Elizabeth Allen. She becomes pregnant, and instead of having the baby or even telling Gable, she has a back alley abortion. The procedure is botched, and she’s admitted to the hospital to repair the damage, where Gable finds out that she had been pregnant with his child.

Even in pre-code, the topic had to be handled delicately. The one stand is only implied, with a discreet fade out. The abortion is never calle as such. They dance around it in their dialogue:

“Ruptured appendix?”
“Worst than that.”
“……..why didn’t she come to us?”

But from their behavior, it’s clear what has happened. Men In White is one of the most daring pre-code films.
 

When Kitty Foyle was made in 1940, the code was still being strictly enforced. So Ginger Rogers, in the title role, becomes pregnant while she is still marriage to her husband, Dennis Morgan. But she doesn’t find out she’s pregnant until they’ve separated. This is one of the many ways films made during enforcement worked around the code and bent the rules. Rogers was no longer with her husband, she was single woman, but she had committed no sin since they had been married when the baby was conceived.

However, she still plans on raising the child as a single mother. The pregnancy moves quickly, and is not a major part of the story. The baby dies, which is an important part of the formation of Kitty Foyle’s character.

With it being such a rare thing in classic film (as opposed to today), pregnancy in film was always a major plot point. Either it was used to shock the audiences or drive the story further. 

 

By Katie Richardson


Cast: Ginger Rogers, David Niven, Charles Coburn, Frank Alberton

Polly Parish (Rogers) is a sales girl at Merlin’s Department store. She’s fired just a few days before Christmas. On her way home, she finds a baby on the steps of the orphange and picks it up, so the people at the orphanage think the baby is hers. Thinking she abandoned the baby because she had lost her job, the orphanage convinces David Merlin (Niven) to give Polly her job back. Polly takes care of the baby that isn’t really hers, and begins to love him as though her were her own. As does David, who also begins to love Polly.

Bachelor Mother is a really terrific Christmas movie. It’s one of those movies that’s a clever take on the virgin birth, making the subject matter perfect for the holiday. It also slyly slides past the censors and the Production Code with the subject manner. There’s a tiny bit of a subversive undertone to the family comedy that’s delightful.

This is one of Ginger Rogers’ best performances. As always, she handles both the comedy and the drama with tremendous skill, and helps to make the growing romance between Polly and David very convincing. But what makes her performance great is her work with the baby. Rogers never had any children of her own, but you’d never guess that by the way she behaves with the baby. She grows to love the baby that’s not really her’s, and it’s one of the most convincing performances I’ve ever seen, and it also makes for one of the most touching mother/son relationships in film.

It definitely is, without a doubt, Ginger’s movie. But David Niven gives a very solid performance. He has some great moments of humor, like when he’s reading the baby book and the pages get stuck together, and when he tries to return the toy duck to his own department store. He really is wonderful with Rogers, and the development of their romance is quite lovely.

Bachelor Mother is simply one of the funniest, sweetest movies to come out in the 1930s.

Also, it was remade as a musical in the 1950s with Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher as Bundle of Joy. It’s not nearly as good as Bachelor Mother, but it is a really cute movie, and Debbie Reynolds is adorable.

Unfortunately, the version on Youtube is the colorized one, but it’s a good movie whether it’s bastardized by color or not.

Part 1, Part 1 continued, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14

And just so you know, after part 4, they’re incorrectly labeled on youtube. I believe I got them all in the right order.

It’s been a really tough year on Hollywood. We’ve lost many, many people who were so important to the film industry. So many that I couldn’t possibly write about them all here. From the legends like Arthur C. Clarke and Jules Dassin, to the young ones who still had their best years ahead of them, like Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro. Some stars, like Evelyn Keyes, were quite old, so while their deaths hurt, the weren’t surprising. But some, like Sidney Pollack, Anthony Minghella, George Carlin and Michael Crichton, took me completely off guard.

Like I said, there’s no way I can write something up for everyone. Here are the ones whose careers meant the most to me, whose deaths effected me the most.

First foremost, the great Richard Widmark. Certainly one of the most underrated actors of all time, and one of my absolute favorites. He was 93 years old, and just days before his death I had mentioned in a thread on Rotten Tomatoes that he was still alive an kicking. Handsom in a troubled and smoldering way, Widmark was the face of cynical, jaded Americans in a post-WWII, cold-war era country. His villains were vicious and frightening, unparralleled in their ferociousness. Even his heroes were conflicted, complicated, and cynical.

In Kiss of Death he created a giggling, sociopathic maniac, and earned his sole Academy Award nomination for it. One of Widmark’s greatest strengths was that he wasn’t afraid of being disliked by the audience. That gave him the freedom to create a truly snarling, terrifying character. I don’t think any other actor could have tied a woman to a chair and thrown her down the stairs as convincingly as Widmark.

In Pickup on South Street he played one of his most morally ambiguous characters. He was some sort of hero, but his first obligation was to himself. No other actor could have pulled off that combination of moral ambiguity and conflict.  Widmark was truly one of a kind. His filmography is really just a string of excellent, diverse movies. Night and the City, Judgement at Nuremburg, The Law and Jake Wade, No Way Out, Panic In the Streets, Murder on the Orient Express.

The death of actress Anita Page hit me pretty hard. She was 98 years old, and I was really hoping she’d make it to 100. She was the last known person living who attended the first Academy Awards Ceremony in 1929, and one of the few silent film actors to live into the 21st century.

Anita Page’s initial career was fairly short, and it seemed like she stopped making films just as her celebrity was on the rise. Though she was in mostly supporting roles, in 1930 she was the most photographed actress in Hollywood (yes, even moreso than Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer). Page’s sweet face made her perfectly suited for the good girl, sweet heart roles. And she was great at playing a broken heart, because that was a face that truly hurt you to see sad. She perfected this kind of role in films like Our Blushing Brides, playing the sweet best friend to Joan Crawford, who falls in love with a rich man and allows herself to be kept by him, only to find out he has no intention of marrying her.

She was Buster Keaton’s leading lady in two of his sound films, Free and Easy and Sidewalks of New York. Initially, it seems like an odd pairing, but Page’s genuine vibrancy gave Keaton’s stone faced, comically morose performances the perfect light and balance.

As sweet as she usually was, the were a few times where she excelled at playing the bad girl. She was a downright bitch in Our Dancing Daughter. She used her angelic face to be deceptive and sneaky. Her character in Skyscraper Souls wasn’t quite as bad and evil, but she gave a really fantastic performance (one of the best in the movie) as the charismatic and slightly slutty best pal to Maureen O’Sullivan.

Cyd Charisse was one of my favorite dancers, and one of my favorite Astaire partners. She was extremely gorgeous, talented, and had tremendous screen presense. Even in films like Singin’ In the Rain, where she didn’t have a speaking role and only dance, she completely electrified the screen

Her most famous films are those made with Astaire and Gene Kelly. The Band Wagon is one of the all time great musicals, and one of the best films about show business. She and Astaire had amazing chemistry and just fit so well when they danced. The Girl Hunt Ballet is an incredible number, with Charisse giving the film a huge amount of sex appeal. Silk Stockings, another pairing with Astaire and a remake of Ninotchka, is also a lovely film.

As evidenced in Singin’ In the Rain, she also had wonderful chemistry with Gene Kelly when they danced. Brigadoon isn’t a particularly great film, but Charisse gave it so much class. It’s Always Fair Weather is a better effort from them.

She even proved that she had acting chops outside of dancing. She was an extremely beautiful woman, which made her perfect for films like Party Girl, a noir in which she gave a smoldering, sexy performance opposite Robert Taylor.

And then, of course, there’s Paul Newman. I wrote an article for the site after his death, and there’s really not much more I can say than that. He was more than just one of tehfinest actors ever. He was also a truly good human being, with a generous soul. His contributions to both film and humanity will be greatly missed. With his passing, the earth is a little more empty, and heaven is a little bit cooler.

By Katie Richardson

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