Katharine Hepburn as Woman of the Year

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Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn: Fireworks at first sight. Image: Doctor Macro

We’re torn when it comes to the 1942 romantic comedy Woman of the Year.

This is an early WWII comedy about a slightly rumpled sportswriter (Spencer Tracy) who meets and marries a gonna-liberate-all-women-and-save-the-world journalist (Katharine Hepburn).

After a fast and intense courtship, the two marry, then learn to adjust to each other.

Or not.

Tracy’s character loves an opinionated, high-spirited woman, but he’s woefully unprepared to live with Hepburn’s doggedness. If she’s not rescuing Greek orphans, she’s giving asylum to political refugees or interviewing world leaders. As Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock might say, Hepburn runs “madly off in all directions”.

In this film, director George Stevens uses dialogue as a frame for the more important job of defining the characters. For example, when Tracy first meets Hepburn in person, it is in the newspaper publisher’s office. The publisher, standing in the background, is droning on about Who Knows What: all we see is Tracy’s attraction to Hepburn and the chemistry that’s going to propel the plot.

But not all dialogue acts as wallpaper. When Tracy meets his new father-in-law (Minor Watson) on the day of the wedding, he has a small confession:

Tracy (to Watson): “I’ve been worried about you since yesterday.”
Watson: “I’ve been worried about you for years.”

Tracy’s character is no dummy; neither is Hepburn’s, which makes the script rather frustrating.

Hepburn meets her adoring public when named Woman of the Year. Image: lksdjf lkasfj

Hepburn shows reporters what a hard worker she is. Image: Hot Saas’s Pop Culture Safari

Hepburn’s character is not perfect. She sometimes makes dumb decisions and jumps into situations before thinking them through. (If she weren’t impetuous, though, she might not have married Tracy in the first place.)

She’s persistent in making the world A Better Place, but this isn’t a hobby to pass the time until marriage. This is who she is.

Therefore, it is unfair to ask Hepburn to Stop It. Many influential women who trade domesticity for the greater good feel the push-pull of domestic life. (Read the memoirs of any past or present female world leader – they’ll tell you how it is.)

However, it’s not Tracy who’s asking Hepburn to Stop It. Nay, he admires her energy and determination. We realize this early in the film:

Tracy: “I love you.” …
Hepburn: “Even when I’m sober?”
Tracy: “Even when you’re brilliant.”

It’s the script that’s pressuring Hepburn to Stop It. Other scripts from this period would praise men for doing the very things Hepburn does. But Hepburn is a woman; therefore, the script requires her character to suffer because she’s not feminine enough.

Even if Tracy were the one telling Hepburn to Stop It, he would likely have our sympathy. He is completely in love with Hepburn (both on screen and off), and is not satisfied with scheduling brief meetings between trains and speeches and ball games. Because he’s Spencer Tracy – and therefore gruffly charming and endearing – we want him to be happy.

This is why we’re torn about Woman of the Year. There is no good guy or bad guy; there are two people trying to find their way in a relationship, just like people do in real life.

Still, Woman of the Year is an entertaining Battle of the Sexes, and a Must See for fans of Tracy and Hepburn.

Woman of the Year: starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Fay Bainter. Directed by George Stevens. Written by Ring Lardner, Jr. and Michael Kanin. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1942, B&W, 112 mins.

This post is part of THE GREAT KATHARINE HEPBURN BLOGATHON, hosted by Click HERE for a list of all fab entries.


How to Make a 1930s Screwball Comedy

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Billie Burke (left) asks Constance Bennett not to be so sensible. Image: Constance Bennett

Dear Reader, we’ve made our peace with the fact we’ll never be nominated for a screenwriting Oscar. We’re not too broken up about this, just like we’re OK with not being selected for the NASA Aeronautics Academy. We’ll get by.

But if we were to write a screenplay, we would model it after the 1938 screwball comedy Merrily We Live. This is one of those films about a wacky but endearing rich family who employ ex-cons and drifters as their servants. (Note: One has to pretend this scenario hasn’t been done before, à la My Man Godfrey.)

In our opinion, there are three major elements to this lesser-known film that make it a stellar example in screwball-icity. We had thought of plotting these elements on a graph, but were too lazy – a characteristic, incidentally, frowned upon at the Aeronautics Academy.

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Brian Aherne embraces his new job. Image: Matinee Moustache

#1 Script
At a glance, the plot seems to be standard 1930’s material: A rich family unknowingly hires a famous writer (Brian Aherne) as a chauffeur, because they believe him to be homeless person. Aherne’s character is having so much fun, he doesn’t wish to disabuse the family of this notion.

However, this film’s script is superior to many other comedies due to the sheer volume of jokes. The jokes are so numerous and delivered so quickly, they practically trip over each other.

For instance, the delightfully spinny family matriarch (Billie Burke) is trying to counsel her Very Smart Daughter (Constance Bennett):

Burke (to Bennett): “My mother always told me children are seen and not heard.”
Bennett: “But your mother was smarter than my mother.”
Burke: “Yes, I know she was, darling.”

Another delightful element is the running gags threaded throughout the film. One such gag is the family’s butler (the perfectly-cast Alan Mowbray), who is forever threatening to quit if the family doesn’t stop hiring ex-cons who steal family heirlooms. (This leads to another scene where the patriarch of the family dryly asks the newly-hired Aherne if he has stolen anything yet.)

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“Darling, puffy sleeves are an Investment.” Image:

#2 Wardrobe & Sets
The best thing about rich people in 1930s screwball comedies is their environment. We love it when art deco sets are nearly overwhelming in their size and shininess. Merrily We Live indulges us in the same way as a chocolate fondue party. Set designer W.L. Stevens has provided a scrumptious buffet filled with lush draperies and highly-collectible furniture; no wonder these people are continually stolen from!

A grand set requires a grand wardrobe. Bennett’s wardrobe (designed by the fab Irene) is chic, elegant, stylish. Burke’s wardrobe, on the other hand, almost competes with her décor – while her clothes are grand and expensive, they’re charmingly out of step with the decade.

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Daily affirmations. Image: Matinee Moustache

#3 Engaging Characters
Screwball comedies have outrageous people who outlandishly. In one scene, an annoying, self-absorbed boyfriend (Phillip Reed) drives Bennett home after a date. He leans in to kiss her and she socks him in the jaw.

This film has a wide assortment of charismatic characters, from the no-nonsense Bennett to Mowbray’s disapproving butler to Aherne’s writerly quirkiness.

Oh – and we can’t forget two minor but important players, the family’s two Great Danes named Get Off The Rug, and You Too.

Merrily We Live is an amusing film that is so good, you’ll want to watch it twice in a row. You’ll agree it’s every bit as clever as anything produced by NASA’s Aeronautics Academy.

Merrily We Live: starring Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne, Alan Mowbray. Directed by Norman Z. McLeod. Written by Eddie Moran and Jack Jevene. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1938, B&W, 95 mins.

How to Survive Shipwreck with a Murderer and a Stupid Detective

Gwen Lee surveys the morons around her.

Gwen Lee surveys the morons around her.

If there’s anything the movies have taught us, it’s this: Whenever you go on a boat, always wear your best gown and pearls – and bring your fur coat, if you have one.

The movies tell us how exciting ships are. A person is forever running into millionaires or Royalty In Disguise. If you’re really lucky, you’ll become shipwrecked on an uncharted island.

Something even more exciting happens in the 1933 comedy-thriller, The Intruder, and it begins on a dark and stormy night – which, as you know, is the best time for evil-doers to run amok. A cruise ship is knocked off course due to strong winds while a murder is being committed on board. Not only that, the murder victim is robbed of diamonds that were stolen from someone else.

Then the ship crashes and the murder suspects – along with the murderer – are forced into a single lifeboat. They land on a deserted island, where the intrigue continues!

See? If a person had decided on a road trip instead of taking a cruise, they would have missed all the fun.

The Intruder is a campy, pre-code treat recommended to us, in an off-handed way, by our friends at Noirish.

There is a good collection of characters in this film, including the bossy-but-thick-headed detective (William B. Davidson), who offers such insights as, “Well, either they’re alive or they’re not.” There’s also an inebriated passenger (Arthur Housman), who wonders if the rescue ship will feature a well-stocked bar.

The best character in this film is Daisy (Gwen Lee), a mashup of Joan Blondell and Mae West. Daisy is the ultimate Pre-Code Woman: smart, brash and capable. She’s the type of character you want on your side if you’ve been shipwrecked on an uncharted island with:

  • a crafty murderer
  • an assortment of murder suspects
  • a diamond robber
  • a stupid detective
  • a wisecracking drunkard
  • a crazed castaway
  • a man in gorilla suit (Don’t ask.)

Daisy shows us how handle this situation and still look as fresh as, well, a daisy.

The key lies in her Alfreda gown, accessorized by a multi-strand pearl necklace, which she wears throughout the ordeal. (Let this be a lesson, Dear Reader: One need not let fashion suffer when dodging murderers on a remote island.)

Gwen Lee (right) tells Lila Lee (no relation) to straighten her stockings.

Gwen Lee (right) tells Lila Lee (no relation) to put on her big girl stockings.

Hollywood costume designer Alfreda enjoyed her greatest popularity in the early 1930s. Her gowns were featured in such pre-code gems as Forgotten Terrors, Officer 13 and  A Shriek in the Night. Not only were her gowns gorgeous, they gave heroines an important quality: courage.

For example, in The Intruder, Daisy never becomes flustered. When she and another female passenger, Miss Wayne (Lila Lee) fall into the clutches of a kidnapper, the women duck into a castaway’s shelter. Here they they discover a human skeleton named “Mary” sitting in a chair. Miss Wayne, understandably, becomes fretful about being killed. Daisy promises she won’t allow the murderer to harm them: “Over my dead body,” she quips.

Alfreda was not one to design a costume without practical features. Daisy’s gown is black, sleek, and durable enough for shipwrecks. But it has an added feature – a handy slip which Daisy tears away and uses as a bandage to save Miss Wayne’s life.

The Intruder seems to draw mixed reviews from audiences. Many people have a “meh” reaction, but we think this pre-code flick is a fun mix of black humour and genuine intrigue.

The Intruder: starring Monte Blue, Lila Lee, William B. Davidson. Directed by Albert Ray. Written by Frances Hyland. Allied Pictures Corp., 1933, B&W, 54 mins.

This post is part of THE PRE-CODE BLOGATHON, hosted by Shadows & Satin and Click HERE for a list of all the entries.



‘Godfrey’ Screenplay Skewers the One Percent

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Poor Gail Patrick (left) thinks she can outwit William Powell (right). Image: Cineplex

Sometimes Hollywood is a bit much, really.

Filmmakers know that we, the masses, enjoy send-ups of rich people. We love it when we can feel intellectually superior to the dim-witted characters on the screen.

The joke is on us, of course. Many of these Hollywood films are made by rich people skewering their own kind, so we can buy tickets to laugh at them – thereby making them even richer.

But once in a while there is a script that makes us forget all of that by offering a deeper message. One such film, for us, is the 1936 screwball comedy, My Man Godfrey.

Godfrey (William Powell) is a “Forgotten” (read: homeless) man who lives with other Forgotten Men in a New York City landfill. One night, limousines arrive and lavishly-dressed rich people, involved in a scavenger hunt, invade the landfill to collect some of these Forgotten Men.

The movie’s not even five minutes old and already the script has smacked us upside the head. It’s significant that homeless people are living in the landfill. (In the landfill. In a first world country!) Even the 1930s term Forgotten Man is cosmetic, intended to mask a societal problem. The phrase is almost quaint and faintly amusing – as though one had left a pair of gloves at the polo club.

One of the rich people (Carole Lombard) quickly realizes the callousness of her mission and apologizes to Powell. He insists he be the Forgotten Man on her Scavenger Hunt List and so, with gratitude, she offers him a job as her family’s butler.

It’s here we get to see a wacky rich family who are alarmingly out of touch with society (i.e. the Depression) and the suffering of others. But they are not without their charm. For example, the father (Eugene Pallette), in summarizing the family’s finances, declares, “[Y]ou people have confused me with the Treasury Department.”

Witty lines, interesting characters, a social message. This is a script that could be nominated for an Oscar.

Which it was.

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The morals of the idle rich. Image: tumblr

The script has assigned Powell’s character the voice of reason, the one who tries to keep everyone grounded. We learn this early in the film, when Powell, rumpled and unshaven from landfill living, accepts the job offer from Lombard, all sleek in her Travis Banton gown.

Powell: “Just one question.”

Lombard: “What.”

Powell: “Where do you live?”

Lombard: “1011 Fifth. It’s funny – I never thought of that.”

Powell: [with a sardonic laugh] “No, you didn’t.”

Throughout the film, Powell tries to reconcile his new life as a butler with his former life as a Forgotten Man. Lombard’s older sister (Gail Patrick) discovers Powell has a secret past which she’s determined to uncover. In the meantime, she never lets Powell forget she’s a Superior Being because she has access to more money.

Powell’s character isn’t bedazzled by riches, and he scorns people who are. “I wanted to see how a bunch of empty-headed nitwits conducted themselves,” he says. “My curiosity is satisfied.”

My Man Godfrey was nominated for six Academy Awards, but went home empty-handed. It was beaten by The Story of Louis Pasteur in the categories of Best Picture and Best Screenplay. However, a person can’t blame the Academy; it would be difficult for any film to run against the guy who developed pasteurization.

Yet, we like to think the still-relevant My Man Godfrey was a close second.

My Man Godfrey: starring William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady. Directed by Gregory La Cava. Written by Morrie Ryskind, Eric Hatch, Robert Presnell, Zoë Akins. Universal Productions Inc., 1936, B&W, 95 mins.

This post is part of the 31 DAYS OF OSCAR Blogathon: The Crafts, hosted by Paula’s Cinema Club, Outspoken & Freckled and Once Upon a Screen. Click HERE for a list of all participants.


Buster Keaton: Animal Rights Activist

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Buster Keaton with his best friend. Image:

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a herd of cattle were suddenly turned loose in a major city?

Really? You’ve never wondered about that?

Well, if you have pondered this, then you must see the 1925 Buster Keaton comedy-western, Go West. You’ll be delighted with a glorious scene where Keaton frees 1,000 head of cattle from a train in downtown Los Angeles.

It’s funny to see the newly-freed cows and bulls milling about; they visit a china shop (ha ha – get it?), a dress shop and a Turkish bath. They also wander into a barber shop, where a stray cow licks the shaving cream from a terrified customer’s face.

Even if you don’t care for the ol’ bovine-in-the-big-city schtick, you’ll still enjoy this film about a young man (Keaton) who ends up working as a ranch hand in Arizona. The film’s title, Go West, is from the famous quotation, “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country”, commonly attributed to author Horace Greeley c.a. 1850.

Keaton’s character doesn’t have friends (he’s referred to as “Friendless” in the credits), nor does he care. He accepts good luck and bad, equally, with that stoic face.

His fortunes change, however, during a round-up on the ranch, when Keaton removes a stone from a cow’s hoof. Here he gains his first real friend – a cow named Brown Eyes. This grateful cow develops a little “crush” on Keaton, and refuses to leave his side. Keaton repays this loyalty by saving her from the branding iron, and by chasing coyotes away from the barn at night.

But when the owner of the ranch (Howard Truesdale) decides it’s time to ship his 1,000 head of cattle – including Brown Eyes – to the stockyards, Keaton’s equanimity vanishes. When his best efforts to shelter her prove futile, he decides to stow away on the cattle train to protect his best friend.

Keaton is told to smile when he calls someone a cheat. Image: lsdkjf jdks

Keaton is told to smile when he calls someone a cheat. Image:

Go West is a delightful film, written and directed by the rubber-limbed Keaton. His character’s circumstances are rather dismal, but Keaton never lets us pity him. This determined young man is so oddly charming, it’s hard to believe he isn’t the most popular person in town.

As director, Keaton is superb. He sets up his shots for maximum comic effect, and threads running sight gags throughout the film. He also includes innovative camera angles, such as the view from atop a charging bull.

He’s also famously unafraid to place himself in harm’s way. In one scene, he realizes the cattle train is out of control, so he runs along the top of the train and leaps into the engine room. (It’s reminiscent of his masterpiece, The General, released the following year.)

Keaton isn’t a large-scale animal rights activist in this film; he’s intent on saving one animal, not the entire herd. But there is that glorious scene of freeing those poor bovines: When the train arrives in L.A., Keaton methodically slides open the bars on each cattle car and the animals, sensing their Big Chance, spring loose. Director Keaton captures the escape in such a way that we know how these cattle feel: free at last!

Go West isn’t one of Keaton’s most famous movies, but it ought to be. It’s a must-see film that shows us why Keaton became a legend in the first place.

Go West: starring Buster Keaton, Howard Truesdale, Kathleen Myers. Directed by Buster Keaton. Written by Buster Keaton (& Lex Neal). A Metro-Goldwyn Production, 1925, B&W, 54 mins.

This post is part of the BUSTER KEATON BLOGATHON, hosted by Silent-ology. Click HERE for a list of all participants.


Vincent Price: Super Boss

Vincent Price: It's lonely at the top. Image: sdfuseilfjkdsk

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 a 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.

Vincent Price (centre, clutching heart) is surrounded by his Yes People. Image: ldsjf eiofj

Price surrounded by his Yes People. Image:

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.

Edna May Oliver vs. The Glass Ceiling

Edna May Oliver (left) tries to explain the obvious to James Gleason. Image: kdsjf eifj sdk

Edna May Oliver (left) explains the obvious to James Gleason. Image: Past Offences

Question: When was the last time you saw a movie in which…

  1. A female amateur sleuth did a better job of solving a mystery than a male detective?
  2. A middle-aged woman who LOOKS middle aged is the main character?
  3. A man becomes romantically interested in a middle-aged woman who is smarter than he?

Happily, the last time we saw a movie like this was the other night. Sadly, the movie was made in 1932.

The Penguin Pool Murder is a gem of a film that ought to be more well known. It has a witty script, clever camera angles, and a mystery that will keep you guessing until the last scene.

Edna May Oliver stars as Miss Hildegard Withers (emphasis on the Miss), a spinsterly schoolteacher who wears a sensible suit and comfortable shoes. She is prim, smart and ambitious, and her vocabulary includes such delightful phrases as “insofar as”.

Oliver happens to be at the city’s aquarium with her class on the day a murder is committed. While she is shepherding her students around the (gorgeous art deco) building, a body falls into the penguin pool. Enter James Gleason as the crusty detective who talks more like a gangster than a law enforcement officer.

As a potential suspect, Oliver is taken into the manager’s office for questioning by Gleason. Something stirs in her and she quickly gloms onto the opportunity of her scholastic lifetime: catching a murderer.

Gleason is impressed by Oliver’s ability to judge character. (“I’ve been teaching school long enough, Inspector, to know whether someone is telling the truth or not.”) He appreciates her help – indeed he relies on it – but his chauvinism sometimes interferes with his professionalism.

In one scene, Oliver shows him notes she’s compiled based on evidence they’ve gathered. Gleason is astounded at what she’s written.

Gleason: You oughtn’t to be a school teacher, Miss Withers. You ought to be a –

Oliver: Detective?

Gleason: (laughs) No, it takes a certain type to be a detective.

Oliver: (dryly) I’ve noticed that.

The chemistry between Oliver and Gleason is a lot of fun – and very appealing. Their banter has been described as that of “an old married couple” but, in our opinion, the dialogue is saucier, mostly because Gleason’s detective loves a woman with backbone.


Edna May Oliver can get anyone to talk. Image:

Although Oliver’s character looks like an old-fashioned defender of The Establishment, she is not. For example, in one scene, Gleason tells Oliver he’s leaving to interview someone and that she should stay put. Oliver sits down for a moment, then forcefully stands up, wraps her fur stole around her neck – twice – and marches out the door.

The one scene that is most illustrative of Oliver’s character is when she barges into a men’s public restroom. She is following Gleason, who goes into the washroom and closes the door ahead of her. Oliver pauses slightly, as though she’s steeling herself, then storms through the door. Gleason, kneeling beside an unconscious man, doesn’t even blink when he sees Oliver enter.

This movie was based on the first of 18 Hildegard Withers novels, seven of which were published in the 1930s. Six movies were made from these novels; Oliver starred in the first three.

The Penguin Pool Murder has become one of our favourite films, and we think it could become one of yours. Set aside an hour to watch this film; you’ll be glad you did.

The Penguin Pool Murder: Edna May Oliver, James Gleason, Robert Armstrong. Directed by George Archainbaud. Written by Willis Goldbeck. RKO Radio Pictures, 1932, B&W, 75 mins.

The Gold Digger’s Fashion Guide

Moon Over Miami Betty Grable

Betty Grable (centre) calls the front desk and orders a Millionaire. Image: Vintage Clothing Love

We are of the opinion that a person should marry for love. But, for those who insist on finding a millionaire and marrying for money, may we recommend some valuable fashion advice?

We ourselves had no idea what to wear when chasing millionaires until we saw the perfect Millionaire* Chasing Attire in the 1941 musical comedy Moon Over Miami.

(*A million dollars in 1941 is worth $16,528,297.87 today. In case you were wondering.)

About the plot: Betty Grable, her sister (Carole Landis), and their aunt (the scene-stealing Charlotte Greenwood) move to Miami, where “rich men are as plentiful as grapefruit and millionaires hang from every palm tree.” (Take note.)

Grable poses as a rich young socialite on vacation, while Landis poses as her personal assistant and Greenwood as the maid. Turns out Grable meets not one, but two! handsome millionaires (Don Ameche and Robert Cummings), and is faced with the awkward dilemma of which millionaire to marry.

About the wardrobe: Everything in this film is designed to accessorize the clothes, from the sets to the co-stars – Cummings and Ameche being the most prominent accessories in this film. The scrumptious wardrobe was designed by famed Hollywood costume designer, Travis Banton. (For samples of his work, click here.)

Before we begin our Wardrobe Analysis, we must remember one important principle: The millionaire must think he (or she) is catching you, not the other way around. (And let’s face it, Dear Reader, you are a catch.)

Now, let us examine Grable’s wardrobe savour-faire, which we can classify in three main categories.

1. Evening Wear

Grable (left) is Millionaire Hunting. Because Landis (seated) is wearing sleeves, she's obviously not. Image: dkjf jeu

Notice Landis (seated) is wearing sleeves, so she’s obviously not Millionaire Hunting. Image: Beauty Bombshells

As you might have guessed, millionaires attend only the best parties where everyone dresses in Very Expensive clothes. This means your party attire must be made by this season’s most sought-after designer. It cannot be last season’s frock purchased at a designer outlet or – heaven forbid – at any place bearing the word “depot”.

2. Everyday Wear

Notice Grable's green suit. It screams, "I'll look good in your money." Image: tumblr

Notice Grable’s emerald-green suit. It screams, “I look good in your money.” Image: tumblr

Despite all appearances, Millionaire Chasing is not a casual, happy-go-lucky activity, so just forget about polyester-blend attire. No stretchy jeans and no – [shudder] – yoga pants. You must be strict with yourself: this is Serious Business.

3. Cultural Wear

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Notice Grable is ready to perform an impromptu number at a moment’s notice. Image:

If you’re moving to another city/country to pursue your millionaire, you must accept the fact that, at some point, you will star in a floor show at a local nightclub. Here’s your chance to show your spouse-to-be that you elevate the local culture. Make sure your outfit pays homage to the locals, but is obviously something they could never afford.

Now you’re ready. Dress in your best outfit and go find that lucky Millionaire. Be sure to send us an invite to the wedding!

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦

Appendix: Wardrobe Checklist

1 Cowboy Waitress Outfit (a reminder of your humble roots)

1 Fur-Trimmed Coat-and-Dress Set

1 Gate-Crashing Party Dress

1 Driving-in-the-Country Suit

1 Sight-Seeing Outfit (suitable for submarine travel)

1 Swishy Gown (with sequinned appliqué)

1 Impromptu Cultural Dance Outfit

1 Trench Coat (for hasty getaways)

1 Breakfast Pantsuit

1 Butterfly-Themed LOOK-AT-ME Dress

1 Swimsuit (not for swimming)

Moon Over Miami: Don Ameche, Betty Grable, Robert Cummings. Directed by Walter Lang. Written by Vincent Lawrence & Brown Holmes. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1941, Technicolor, 91 mins.

Winston Churchill vs. Colonel Blimp

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Roger Livesey (left) plays a bombastic yet lovable Colonel. Image:

When we (as in, yours truly) were young, we felt we were smarter than older generations because we could identify the celebrities du jour. We thought this somehow made us smarter, which is rather embarrassing to admit.

Now that we’re a bit older, we realize we don’t know as much as the generation before or after us, which is also rather embarrassing.

There’s a lot to be said about the experience and wisdom of older generations, but oftentimes the fresh perspective of younger generations is necessary.

This is one of the themes of the British WWII war dramedy The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, a film about a young British army soldier who duels with, then befriends, a German soldier. He remains the German’s lifelong friend despite the miles between them, a mutual love for the same woman, and a mild skirmish known as WWI.

The main character is a clever young man who serves his country his entire life with the ideals he was raised, but as he grows older he becomes increasingly out of step with the perplexing twentieth century.

So, who on earth was Colonel Blimp?

Blimp was a popular British cartoon that lampooned stuffy, démodé leaders in government and the military. Blimp often makes circular arguments and/or arrives at ridiculous conclusions, most of which are based on the assumption that the British Empire Is Never Wrong. Here is an example:

Colonel Blimp in his element. Image: akdsjf

Colonel Blimp waxing eloquent in his Turkish bath. Image: Air Force Amazons

The movie Colonel Blimp is named Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey), and when we first meet him, he is just like the cartoon figure pictured above. He is an awkward, blustery old man, complete with giant walrus moustache.

We also discover, however, that Wynne-Candy is also a man who loves deeply and, when he was a young man, he fell in love with a woman he didn’t marry – and never got over it. (This woman is Deborah Kerr, who plays three women in the film.) Not only that, his fondness and admiration for his German friend (Anton Walbrook), is a remarkable show of loyalty. Despite our initial impressions, we find ourselves becoming enamoured with Wynne-Candy.

Colonel Blimp is considered one of the greatest British films ever made; it was written and directed by the brilliant filmmaking duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. One of the most remarkable scenes features a monologue by Anton Walbrook when his character applies for refugee status in England. The monologue starts at the 1:16 mark below. When Walbrook begins his speech, notice the camera never looks away, never blinks.

But when Colonel Blimp was released in 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill tried to have it banned, even though it was a commercial success – and even though it contained Walbrook’s inspirational monologue. When the ban attempt failed, he managed to delay its international release until 1945.

Colonel Blimp, we presume? Image: lskdfj

Colonel Blimp’s personality bears no resemblance to Winston Churchill. None what-so-ever. Image: Cinemas Online

One can’t be too hard on Churchill for this position. It was WWII, after all, and British civilians were asked to make great sacrifices for the war. He certainly wanted to keep civilian morale high, and having a pompous, slightly ridiculous character lampooning the military was, in his mind, likely defeating the purpose.

(The British media, like any other media, loves a whiff of scandal, and they discussed Churchill’s displeasure with this film at length in 2012, when Colonel Blimp was re-released. You can see an example here.)

If you’ve not seen The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, please set aside an evening for it. It’s a gorgeous film, and is ranked 45 out of the top 100 British films of all time. More importantly, however, you’ll be glad to make Colonel Blimp’s acquaintance.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook. Written & directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The Rank Organisation, 1943, Technicolor, 163 mins.

This post is part of the BRITISH EMPIRE Blogathon hosted by Phantom Empires and The Stalking Moon. Be sure to read all the other contributions!


The Enchanting Soviet Cinderella

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Zolushka (Cinderella) dreams of dancing and eating ice cream. Image:

Get this.

Did you know that Soviet filmmakers released a film in 1947 that rivals MGM’s The Wizard of Oz? Yup, when you compare music, sets and costumes, the Soviet film measures up to the MGM extravaganza in nearly every way.

Zolushka is a retelling of the classic Cinderella tale. A loving and sweet-tempered girl lives with her unkind stepmother and two stepsisters, who use guilt and intimidation to keep Zolushka in her place as a servant.

Zolushka truly is a marvel. She cleans the house, gathers heavy firewood and sews her sisters’ ball gowns – all in one evening.

On the night of the ball, Zolushka asks permission to go to the park to gaze at the party from a distance. (Is that not the saddest request you’ve ever heard?) The stepmother agrees but says a few chores must be completed first, such as pulling weeds, sorting beans and painting the house.

This film has a witty script, with some unexpected lines. For instance, a woodchopper says Zolushka’s Step-Aunt was eaten by an ogre, who subsequently died of poisoning. In another scene, the king talks up his princely son by exclaiming, “He can do speeches! And poems! And compliments!”

The script also contains hues of Marxism. For example, the king is friends with commoners, which suggests Soviet society does not contain societal classes. “Because our kingdom is a Fairytale Kingdom for a reason,” he says. (Cough – baloney! – cough.)

The Fairy Godmother, too, is a Soviet Propaganda Tutor. After she transforms Zolushka from girl-in-rags to girl-in-shiny-gown, she offers a little speech: “I can see clearly that, although dressed in a lavish ball gown, you’ll remain the sweet and hardworking girl you’ve always been. And please stay that way. It will bring you happiness.”

This film borrows heavily from folklore. As a result, it has lots of magic. Magic is crucial, but perhaps not so much to the film nor to the girl Zolushka.

The magic is essential for the audience.

The Soviet fairy godmother instructs Zolushka to work hard. Image: sldkfj asdj

Mother Russia – er, the Fairy Godmother showers magic on Zolushka. Image: Zolushka Online

Zolushka was released two years after World War II, and the horrors of that war would still be fresh in the minds of Soviet audiences. While WWII was grisly on all fronts, it could be argued that some of the most gruesome events took place on Soviet soil.

Zolushka’s stepmother, for instance, muses about her future once one of her daughters has married the prince: “It’s a shame this kingdom is too small for me,” she says. “I’ll have no room for my antics. But that’s fixable – I’ll fight my neighbours.” This thinly-veiled reference to Adolph Hitler and his imperialistic tendencies would certainly strike a chord with audiences. (Never mind that the Soviet government had these same tendencies; that’s a discussion for another day.)

Before the war, Soviet citizens would have already suffered from pogroms, forced collectivization of farms, mass starvation, political and military purges, the prison system (a.k.a. the Gulag), and constant surveillance by the NSA, oops, the KGB.

Soviet audiences needed beauty and magic because they were Zolushka – downtrodden souls kept in servitude, living in a dreary, thankless regime. The girl on the screen with the crystal shoes is the embodiment of the Soviet populace. “Happiness has vanished as a mirage,” sings the girl, “and sorrow is in front of me.”

Zolushka is probably one of the most haunting and beautifully-filmed versions of the Cinderella story, if not the most meaningful. Whether or not you have an interest in Soviet-era cinema, we highly recommend it.

Zolushka: Yanina Zhejmo, Aleksei Konsovsky, Erast Garin. Directed by Nadezhda Kosheverova and Mikhail Shapiro. Written by Yevgeni Shvarts. Lenfilm Studio, 1947, Colour, 79 mins.

This post is part of the Fairy Tale Blogathon hosted by Movies, Silently. Be sure to read all the other contributions!