Grand Finale: Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

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We’re excited (and a little sad) to present today’s Big Finish for the Miriam Hopkins Blogathon. We’ve had so much fun that we’re a little sorry to see it end.

The most impressive aspects of this blogathon are the passion and admiration people have for Miriam’s work. Clearly, her films are still relevant to modern audiences.

Today’s posts are a reflection of that passion. They could almost be regarded as love letters to Miriam and the films she made.

Thanks to everyone who researched, wrote, read, and commented on posts as part of this blogathon. You’ve helped celebrate the career of a remarkable actress, and helped launch a fab new site, Font and Frock, with our friend and fellow book/movie lover, Maedez, of A Small Press Life.

Here are the final tributes:

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The Movie Rat reviews two (very) different versions of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour and Miriam’s role in both: The Adapation of Miriam Hopkins.

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Twenty Four Frames analyzes the film – and the controversy surrounding – the pre-code The Story of Temple Drake.

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Second Sight Cinema discusses the role, and the film, that made Miriam Hopkins a star: Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

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Journeys in Classic Film looks at a superbly acted and directed film, The Heiress.

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Nitrate Diva examines justice and tragedy in The Story of Temple Drake.

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Girls Do Film counts the ways we love Gilda (Miriam): There Never Was a Woman Like Miriam Hopkins.

Day Three: Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

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We’re having so much fun we can hardly stand it!

Today is Day 3 of the Miriam Hopkins Blogathon, and the contributions are as amazing as they’ve been during the past two days.

Today’s posts prove Miriam enthrals audiences today as much as she did at the peak of her career. As our co-host, Maedez, says, “There’s just something about Miriam.”

This blogathon celebrates the career of a remarkable actress, and is launching the fab new site, Font and Frock, with our friend and fellow book/movie lover, Maedez, who also curates A Small Press Life.

Here are today’s outstanding posts:

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The brains behind this blogathon, Maedez, presents a four-part series on Design for Living on her new blog, Font and Frock.

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Margaret Perry presents a mini bio of Miriam, and proves she was as brainy as she was beautiful: A Georgia Peach in Hollywood.

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Tips from Chip recommends Miriam and her Pre-Code version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

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Wolffian Classics Movies Digest praises Miriam’s Aunt Lavinia in The Heiress

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Once Upon a Screen reviews the Battle of the Mothers-in-Law, the more formidable one being our Miriam in The Mating Season.

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Moon in Gemini looks at Miriam as the “anti-Scarlett” in the Western Virginia City.

We’ll be back tomorrow with our Miriam Hopkins Grand Finale!

Day Two: Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

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We’re going to brag.

Today is Day 2 of the Miriam Hopkins Blogathon, and the contributions are just as stellar as the ones we boasted about yesterday.

Today’s posts provide background and context for Miriam’s career; they give us a greater appreciation for her contributions to Hollywood film history.

This blogathon is celebrating the talent of a remarkable actress, and launching the new site, Font and Frock, with our friend and fellow book/movie lover, Maedez, who also curates A Small Press Life.

Here are today’s marvelous posts:

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Wide Screen World presents a review of The Smiling Lieutenant, comic-strip style!

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Carole & Co. examines the times Carole Lombard’s career crossed paths with Miriam Hopkins, starting with 1931’s Fast and Loose.

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Wolffian Classics Movies Digest gives the 1932 comedy Trouble in Paradise an enthusiastic 10/10.

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Self-Styled Siren argues the case for a Miriam Hopkins revival: The Memorable Miriam.

Miriam Hopkins always takes things in stride. Image: lskdjf aiefj

Yours truly defends Miriam’s high-intensity performance in Old Acquaintance.

Don’t change that dial! We’ll be bragging about more contributions tomorrow.

Miriam Hopkins & The Mercenary Art of Persuasion

Miriam Hopkins always takes things in stride. Image: lskdjf aiefj

“GASP! I’m NOT the centre of the universe?!” Image: Shadowplay

We feel sorry for people who discover Life Isn’t Fair. It’s an unpleasant realization, one that’s often accompanied by fist shaking, table pounding and other notable hand gestures.

Life is not fair, and we must either accept it, or follow Miriam Hopkins’ lead in the 1943 drama Old Acquaintance, which is to ensure life is more fair to you than to others.

 Old Acquaintance is what’s called a “women’s picture”, one of several melodramas made by Warner Bros around World War II. This one is about the friendship between two women over the span of 20 years. It stars Bette Davis as Kit, a down-to-earth, roll-with-the-punches kind of gal, and Miriam Hopkins as Millie, a vain, tightly-wound, self-centred greedy-pants.

The two women could not be more different and it’s almost unfathomable they should become and remain friends. The screenplay acknowledges our disbelief: In one scene Hopkin’s husband (Jon Loder), asks Davis why she’s been life-long friends with Hopkins. Davis replies, “She knew me when everyone called me ‘Chucky’.” This matters to Davis, although we can’t imagine why.

We can, however, imagine millions of reasons not to remain friends with Hopkins, the greatest being her infuriating nature. She is so volatile. She’s cheery, then furious, then in tears. You never know what’s coming next. Plus, she chooses to see life as she wants it to be, not as it is. (For example, she dresses in the frilly costumes of her characters in the popular romance novels she writes.) Yet, this approach brings her material success – which is even more maddening.

Not only that, she’s always on the verge of a major crisis. In one scene, she wails, “I should have thrown myself out the window like I planned. How can I face people?”

No wonder Davis snaps and does this:

"How come you get a blogathon and I don't?" Image: lskdj flskdjf

“I should’ve done this an hour and a half ago.” Image: Matthew’s Island of Misfit Toys

Many have criticized Hopkins for being too over-the top, as though she were playing to a large outdoor theatre rather than studio cameras.

Yet, we mustn’t be too dismissive of Hopkins’ performance. It’s her theatrics, for instance, that make Davis look even more even-tempered – the neck-shaking event notwithstanding. It’s also worth nothing that Hopkins maintains a high level of intensity throughout the movie, which deliberately keeps the audience on edge.

Hopkins is mesmerizing as this difficult character. She has a daughter and a husband, but doesn’t seem to have deep feelings for either one. “Yes, a husband can be a great comfort at times,” she sighs, as though it were the same thing as keeping extra sugar in the pantry. In another scene, she sniffs, “People are a nuisance. The only people who matter are the people in my books.”

She’s not telling the truth, of course. The person who matters most in the world, besides herself, is Davis. Hopkins, strangely, almost becomes subservient to Davis’ character. Davis is the only one who can reason with her, calm her down and, ultimately, forgive her.

Old Acquaintance is pure melodrama, but it is an interesting look at women’s friendship – a topic Hollywood normally overlooks. As much as Hopkins’ character infuriates us, she has a way of making us exonerate her in the end.

Old Acquaintance: starring Bette Davis, Miriam Hopkins, Gig Young. Directed by Vincent Sherman. Written by John Van Druten and Lenore Coffee. Warner Brothers Pictures, 1943, B&W, 110 mins.

This post is part of the Miriam Hopkins Blogathon, hosted by yours truly and Maedez of A Small Press Life and Font and Frock. Click HERE for a list of all participants.

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Day One: Miriam Hopkins Blogathon

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We’re feeling the Miriam love today!

Today is the first day of the Miriam Hopkins Blogathon, and we’re off to an amazing start. Today’s reviews reveal the surprising versatility and depth Miriam conveys on the screen.

This blogathon is celebrating the talent of a remarkable actress, and launching the new site, Font and Frock, with our friend and fellow book/movie lover, Maedez, who also curates A Small Press Life.

Here are today’s fab posts:

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Critica Retro discusses our Miriam and Paul Muni’s attractive beard in The Woman I Love (or: The Woman Between).

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The Last Drive-In examines Miriam’s ability to embrace characters who are destructive, and even grotesque, in The Children’s Hour and Don’t Open Until Doomsday (The Outer Limits).

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Caftan Woman introduces us to a delightful and thoughtful film, The Stranger’s Return.

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Speakeasy looks at Miriam as a sophisticated con artist in Trouble in Paradise.

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Public Transportation Snob raves about Miriam’s free-spirited character in Design for Living.

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Movie Classics looks at Miriam’s ability to carry a William Thackeray adapation in Becky Sharp.

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Shadows and Satin describes Miriam’s incredible performance in the lesser-known 24 Hours.

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A Person in the Dark asks, What’s a woman like Miriam to do when her husband leaves her for a younger woman in Carrie?

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The new blog Miriam24seven presents Miriam’s picture-stealing performance in Men are Not Gods.

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Now Voyaging reviews what some call “a perfect movie”, Trouble in Paradise.

Stay tuned. We have more great posts tomorrow!

Miriam Hopkins Blogathon Starts Tomorrow!

The Miriam Hopkins Party starts tomorrow! Image: Reddit

Let’s raise a glass to Miriam! Image: Reddit

Yay! Tomorrow the Miriam Hopkins Blogathon begins.

Miriam’s celebration is in conjunction with the launch of Font and Frock, a new website about film, fashion, [flash] fiction, and feminism. This artfully-conceived site is curated by our chic, smarty-pants co-host, Maedez, who’s also the brains behind the literary A Small Press Life.

Click HERE for a list of blogathon participants. (If we’ve accidentally overlooked you, please let us know right away.)

Every evening, from January 22-25, we’ll be uploading a recap of the day’s posts. So just let us know when your post is live, and we’ll include it in our “nightcap” (ha ha).

See you at the Miriam Hopkins bash!

Contrary to Popular Opinion: The Postman Should Cut & Run

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“I love you. Let’s go swimming.” Image: doctormacro.com

We knew this day would come.

We knew there would come a day when we would spill our darkest movie secret.

It’s this: We think the 1946 holy grail of film noir, the one that’s on everyone’s Top 10 List, is dreadfully overrated. In fact, we can hardly sit through it.

The Postman Always Rings Twice, in our opinion, is a muddled, overrated melodrama starring John Garfield and Lana Turner. It’s about a woman and her lover who plot to kill her husband (Cecil Kellaway). You can click HERE for the trailer, but we think a more enjoyable viewing choice is this vintage science documentary on atomic energy.

So what’s our big fat problem with The Postman Always Rings Twice? We’re glad you asked.

1. Some of the innuendo is a little too on the nose. For example, in one scene, Turner demands that Garfield paint all the chairs in the cafe:

Garfield: “Maybe I’ll look in the paper. Maybe I’ll find a sale on cheap paint.”
Turner: (icily) “You won’t find anything cheap around here.”

(Do you suppose they’re not actually talking about paint? Oh, those canny scriptwriters!)

2. Is Turner’s much-older husband really so bad? Is he really worth killing for a gas-station-slash-hamburger joint? Of course, his death is insured for $10,000, which would buy a lot of ground beef, so maybe we’re being too judgmental.

However, we can’t help but feel a little sorry for the husband. He’s a plain, unsophisticated fellow who knows Turner is too attractive for him. In one scene, the poor slob sings a song that is a mockery of his life:

I’m not much to look at
Nothing to see
Just glad I’m living
Lucky to be
I’ve got a woman crazy for me
She’s funny that way

He’s a dead man, Kellaway is, so to ensure we don’t gain too much sympathy for him, the scriptwriters make him suddenly decide to move to northern Canada so Turner can look after his paraplegic sister.

Turner does not take this news well. Northern Canada, after all, is the absolute worst place on earth. Here is a picture:

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The Yukon, in northern Canada. Image: Discover Canada

But it’s not a place where a gal can easily wear white shorts and heels, so we have to take that into consideration.

3. All the business about electricity (the neon sign, the unlucky cat tripping the breaker) is a deceitful use of foreshadowing. Electricity is a clever, ominous presence in the first half of the film, then it’s dropped like a tainted celebrity. It’s a cinematic rip-off.

4. How can a movie with so much promise so badly lose its way? The film starts with good tension and palpable chemistry between Turner and Garfield. But halfway through, it stumbles and never regains its footing. Before we know it, we’re slogging through dialogue like this:

Turner: “All the hate and revenge has left me, but is it all out of you?”
Garfield: “I’m trying to find some way I could prove it to you.”

Then they go swimming. Yes, swimming. The universal gesture of forgiveness.

Other choice lines include:

  • “Both of us hating each other, like poison.”
  • “I couldn’t have this baby, then have it find out that I sent its father into that poison gas chamber for murder.”

5. Turner and Garfield don’t think things through. They decide to run away together, but they don’t have a car. So they trudge alongside the hot, dry highway, suitcases in hand, unable to hitch a ride.

Um… these are people who are going to plan the Perfect Murder?

Even though our faves Hume Cronyn, Alan Reed and Leon Ames have supporting roles in this film, they can’t save it.

Our biggest problem with The Postman Always Rings Twice is that it deserves to be more than it is, and we blame the script. The soap-opera dreck we’re left with at the conclusion is almost unbearable. The atomic energy documentary we referenced earlier has a much more satisfying ending.

(Whew! We are so relieved to unburden ourselves of this dark secret.)

The Postman Always Rings Twice: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway. Directed by Tay Garnett. Written by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp., 1946, B&W, 113 mins.

This post is part of the CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION Blogathon hosted by Sister Celluloid and Movies, Silently. Click HERE to read all the other contributions!

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Vincent Price: Super Boss

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Vincent Price: It’s lonely at the top. Image: Macabre Drive-In Theatre

Have you ever had a boss who was self-centred, greedy and completely unreasonable?

No, we didn’t think so. Bosses, by nature, are always kind, forgiving and rational.

However, if you are one of the very few who may have had a negative boss/subordinate experience, we recommend the delightful Champagne for Caesar.

Champagne for Caesar is a 1950 comedy with a stellar cast featuring Ronald Colman, Celeste Holm and Vincent Price. With a cast like this, a movie cannot go wrong.

Colman plays a perpetually under-employed intellectual who tries, but is unable, to secure a job as a research surveyor for a national firm, Milady Soap Company (“The Soap that Sanctifies”). This company is ruled by Price who interviews, then greatly offends, Colman.

Colman decides to get even with Price by becoming a contestant on the television quiz show sponsored by Price’s company, Masquerade for Money. This is a show where contestants wear costumes and answer trivia questions for cash prizes.

Colman is delightful in this movie. He’s convincing as a kind-hearted know-it-all who has the brains to score a truckload of Milady Soap Company moola.

Holm, too, is perfectly cast as beautiful smarty-pants with whom Colman becomes instantly smitten. Holm has a hysterical deadpan delivery that almost seems to wink at us in the audience.

But Vincent Price!

Price is the best part of this film. He’s captivating in the role of an obnoxious, narcissistic idiot – a man who surrounds himself with Yes Men. For example, Price falls into a “thinking” trance whenever someone brings up a distasteful subject, and his Yes Men must reverentially tiptoe around his otherworldly reverie.

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Price surrounded by his Yes People. Image: wearemoviegeeks.com

No one chews the scenery better than Price, even on a bad day. When Colman starts winning very large sums on the quiz show, Price’s angst is thoroughly satisfying. This is because Colman and Price are making a fool of every bad boss any one of us has ever had.

For instance: In the scene where Price interviews Colman for the position at Milady, we see Price at his oversized desk, flanked by busts of Napoleon and Julius Caesar. Colman, clearly out of place in this pretentious atmosphere, makes a small joke. A snippy Price immediately declares his hatred of humour.

(A person who hates humour?)

Price: “At some given moment you would probably revert to type.”

Colman: “Oh, but surely –”

Price: (anguished) “Why is he interrupting? I didn’t indicate that I had finished talking. Did I? … You are an intellect and I hate intellectual types.”

In another scene, Price murmurs to his secretary, “You do care for me, don’t you? Remind me to ask you later what you’re doing tonight.”

You can see why we desperately want Colman to beat Price at his own (quiz show) game.

However, all of this creates an interesting situation. The more times Colman wins – and becomes famous – on Masquerade for Money, the more successful and famous Milady Soap Company becomes. It’s a public relations Détente.

The movie also raises a side question: Can big business ultimately tame the celebrities it creates?

Even though some of the humour is dated, Champagne for Caesar is a little-known treasure that deserves a wider audience. If you’ve ever had a Bad Boss experience, you might find this film oddly therapeutic.

Champagne for Caesar: Ronald Colman, Celeste Holm, Vincent Price. Directed by Richard B. Whorf. Written by Hans Jacoby and Fred Brady. United Artists Corp., 1950, B&W, 100 mins.

Get Ready: Miriam Hopkins Is Coming to Town

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“How come you get a blogathon and I don’t?” Image: Matthew’s Island of Misfit Toys

The Miriam Hopkins Blogathon starts soon! We, along with our über-chic friend Maedez of A Small Press Life/Font & Frock, will be celebrating All Things Miriam from January 22-25. Click HERE for details.

To those who have signed up: We can’t wait to read your entries.

To those who haven’t signed up: Come on! You know you want to.

We’ll be going – ahem – full throttle, starting January 22.

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Lessons from The Snow Creature: How to Sabotage Scientific Discovery

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This is a Yeti. Hint: he’s scary. Image: Monster Kid Classic Horror Forum

What do you consider to be the greatest scientific discovery of this generation? Would you say it’s a medical, technological or astronomical discovery? Perhaps the discovery of a previously unknown species trumps all.

Well, then, imagine our excitement when we discovered The Snow Creature (1954), a film about the discovery of a Himalayan creature known as a Yeti.

The Snow Creature is representative of 1950s sci-fi/horror films, many of which are labelled “so bad, they’re good”. The plot usually involves monsters and/or aliens that attack planet earth while a handsome young scientist feverishly works to destroy the beast.

Today’s film is likely the worst of this genre – it’s so bad, it’s bad. If that weren’t enough, director W. Lee Wilder and scriptwriter Myles Wilder are blood relatives* of legendary Hollywood director Billy Wilder. [Insert face palm.] Let’s just say, judging by this film, these two apples fell far from the Wilder family tree.

However, not all is lost with The Snow Creature. It was released the year after the first confirmed summit of Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in 1953, and you can’t blame it for capitalizing on that historic event. It also has sets that appear to be authentic, e.g. real mountains, a real airport, and a real storm sewer.

The plot involves a snow creature that terrorizes Himalayan villagers and kidnaps women. It’s eventually captured by an American botanist (Paul Langton) and brought back to the U.S. for scientific study.

The great thing about these kinds of movies is Something Always Goes Wrong. The Snow Creature is no different. In fact, our movie provides valuable lessons in how to botch a major scientific discovery.

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The Snow Creature in his mountain playground. Image & Review: Monsterminions

1. Have contempt for locals who carry your supplies and field equipment. They’re just waiting for an opportunity to be mean and drink your liquor. (Never mind that your team photographer drinks steadily; a Sherpa with a taste for liquor must not be tolerated.)

2. Don’t ask probing questions when you first discover the creature. Questions are stupid, anyway, such as: What does the Yeti eat? How many are there? Why does it kill people all the time? (The big question for us: How come it never sits down?)

3. A scientist is a scientist is a scientist. The man who captures the Yeti is a botanist. (You must overlook the fact there no plants – not even office plants – in this movie.) Who needs a biologist or anthropologist for this research? Any egghead with a PhD will do.

4. Do not study the creature in its native habitat. Field study is for suckers. It’s much better to order a custom-made refrigerated booth (similar to a telephone booth), and ship this remote Himalayan creature to a large coastal city like Los Angeles. Everyone knows creatures are best studied when they’re snatched from their natural environment.

5. Don’t worry about the creature having a “calculating brain” until you arrive at U.S. Customs. Officials will determine if the snow creature qualifies as livestock, or as an immigrant.

6. Leave the creature in the care of an inexperienced guard. The Yeti, annoyed that it hasn’t killed anyone lately, will break out of its telephone-booth prison. You can only imagine the murderous rampage that ensues.

The Snow Creature is a study in awful-ness (bad script, unlikable characters, sloppy monster costume). But if you know all these things going in, you might find it not so bad after all.

*W. Lee is Billy Wilder’s brother. Myles is Lee’s son.

The Snow Creature: Paul Langton, Leslie Denison, Teru Shimada. Directed by W. Lee Wilder. Written by Myles Wilder. United Artists Corp., 1954, B&W, 71 mins.