Thursday, October 31, 2013

Classic Hollywood Halloween Costumes Suggestions

Good morning!

Well, the witching hour is upon us. Have you got your jack o lanterns all lit up, on display? Candy ready for your trick or treaters? I am so pumped for the big day to be here! Today I was looking for Old Hollywood costumes on Google images and thought it might be fun to make some styleboards for costumes I either haven't seen enough of or haven't seen any of. If you're looking for a classic Hollywood costume and are out of last minute ideas, profitez from my little haphazard daydreams of "costumes I haven't worn yet".

Roll film!

1) Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Wigshoesbaby dolldress
This is really something I've been kicking around doing for ye-e-e-e-ars, but I've never gotten around to it! Mainly, I think you would need a wig to drive home the point (did you know the one Davis wears in the film is actually one that co-star Joan Crawford wore in a silent movie, waaaay back at the beginning of her career? Total coincidence!), and I have yet to commit to one for the part. I'm pretty sure 90% of people would just think you were going as a baby doll, but maybe you could carry a copy of the dvd or your own "Baby Jane doll" around with you to help jog people's memories. For this part, Bette Davis famously made herself look every year, month, day, and hour of her fifty four years, and then some, accentuating those enormous eyes with dark kohl, and painting her face an almost geisha white. Heavy black eyelashes and a beauty mark would round out the makeup. Don't forget to practice your best rendition of "I've Written a Letter to Daddy", with or without accompaniment, and your delivery of the line "But-cha aaaaahhhh, Blanche, y'aaaaahre in that chaaair!" It takes a lot for me to favor a non-Joan Crawford character in a Joan Crawford movie, but Bette Davis is just extraordinary in this scene-chomping role. 

2) Rita Hayworth as Gilda in...well, Gilda

If you were thinking something glamorous and sophisticated, but didn't want to go for the more obvious Holly Golightly costume, why not try Rita Hayworth as Gilda in her famous glove-strip-tease scene from the 1946 noir, co-starring Glenn Ford? While a long, strapless satin gown would be prettier, all I could dang find on the internet was pageant dress after pageant dress, and this strap-ful satin hourglass dress-- yet I know your local Goodwill is bound to have something suitably at least 1980's-does-1940's for your bombshell needs. The opera length black satin gloves are crucial, as Rita makes their removal in the musical number "Put the Blame on Mame" somehow more scandalous and suggestive than a full burlesque fan dance in pasties. Another important part is Rita's hair-- you need a serious forties' style wave to get your Rita across in earnest, and auburn red hair wouldn't hurt, either! This pincurl tutorial looks can draw inspiration from one of the most famous head-flips in all of movie history. "Me? Decent?" She kills me! Every time!

3) Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola in The Blue Angel

Deadset on a "sexy" costume, in spite of perilously plummeting late October temperatures? How about Lola Lola from von Sternberg's The Blue Angel? Dietrich drew her costume inspiration from cabaret singers and drag queens she knew from her bohemian social life in Weimar Berlin in the late twenties', the top hat and some of the sequined shifts actually on loan from the real deal people. Even though she would slim down to a wisp of herself for her American film debut in Morocco the next year (you could cut glass on those cheekbones!), she's smoldering in her breakthrough role as the temptress who ruins repressed schoolteacher Emil Jannings one sexily turned ankle at a time. This is similar to a Sally Bowles, Cabaret costume, but more frilly and embellished with sequins and frippery than the sleek Liza Minnelli wardrobe for that film. Like the previous two suggestions, this costume, too, comes with a musical selection! "Falling in Love Again" is Lola Lola's signature song, and Dietrich's deep-voiced, belted, sultry delivery on this made it a recognizable personal anthem in her later personal appearances and concerts for the next thirty-five years (here she is singing it in 1963 in the Netherlands!).

4) Lauren Bacall as Vivian in The Big Sleep

Last but not least, possibly the easiest costume out of the bunch-- if you can find a decent houndstooth suit and a black beret, you've got a perfectly serviceable Lauren Bacall costume from her role in the second of four movies she and Bogart would make together. The former Betty Joan Perske had become the fourth and final Mrs. Bogart by the time this movie was released, and boy, do they crackle together on screen. With her poise and elegant looks, it's hard to believe Bacall was twenty one during production on the's note, I neither looked that poised nor that elegant at the age of twenty one (or at twenty-eight, for that matter!). This checked suit shows up so beautifully on screen, too-- perfect for black and white photography. This cracks me up about the movie, from the Wikipedia page: 
The Big Sleep is known for its convoluted plot. During filming, allegedly neither the director nor the screenwriters knew whether chauffeur Owen Taylor was murdered or had killed himself. They sent a cable to Chandler, who told a friend in a later letter: "They sent me a wire ... asking me, and dammit I didn't know either".
That's movie magic though! What does it matter when all you're really concerned about is whether or not the two principals will get together in the end after the murder is more or less solved! Bogart's ruse as a "book collector" in one of the scenes is one of the highlights of the movie. Iconic costume in only two major pieces...what could be easier?

What do you think? Which of these would you like to try for yourself on Halloween this year or next? Have you ever dressed as an old time celebrity? I was Bette Davis as Margot Channing in All About Eve one year, with a big, Margo-esque dress and my hair curled, but I still had to point to my VHS copy of the movie all night so people would get it. It was college! What did I expect? What are your plans this year? Let's chat!

That's all for today, but I'll be back tomorrow for Photo Friday. Have a FRIGHTFUL Halloween night tonight, and I'll see you then! :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories (2013)

Good morning!

Just in time for Halloween, Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories is one of my best internet discoveries of late! Like well-crafted horror, a vintage aesthetic, and/or Japanese culture? You are in luck, my friend.

The day after the wedding but the day before the honeymoon, we were both in a daze and spent most of that Sunday curled up in the green room watching these Asian horror snippets that, in spite of looking like a friendly little animated series, are completely terrifying. Each episode is available to watch for free on the anime site Crunchyroll, and don't think I haven't done exactly that. 

The title of the series is a play on the word "kamishibai". A storytelling technique that originated in 12th century Japan, kamishibai enjoyed a resurgence in the first half of the twentieth century. The performance art utilizes paper scrolls to illustrate morality stories, and was popular in twenties' through the fifties' in the format you see above-- the storyteller would arrive on a bicycle outfitted with a wooden "theater" to display a series of still pictures. Yamishibai uses the framework of that as the introduction to each episode-- as a portly Hitchcock or a bushy eyebrowed Serling would introduce each of their spooky tales, so does the kamishibai storyteller (did they wear creepy masks like this? Or is that some to-make-it-scarier touch?) introduce each little snippet of horror.

I can't not look!
A lot of what appeals in this and other terror imports from Japan is the economy with which each story is told. I'm reminded immediately of Hontoni Kowai Hanashi (Scary True Stories, which I posted about last year)...I spent like two days straight watching six minute segment after six minute segment of that show on Youtube, because the thrills and chills just kept coming! With less than 10 minutes to get your scare across, you don't have time to set up jerry-rigged character motivations and interlace multiple flimsy plotlines-- in other words, there's no room for the "fat" of a lot of exercises in horror, just the lean, straight terror. Lots of old time radio shows were that way-- with thirty minutes, you don't have the luxury of spending fifteen of them explaining why you're going up to a haunted cabin in the woods; the show had better open with you there, about to find something terrible crawling on the roof! One of the best of this genre was "Inside Out", by Lights Out, Everybody genius Arch Oboler (it appears under the title "The Dark" on a sixties' record Mr. O put out, also here on Youtube). In eight minutes, there's a full opera of horrible things happening in the sub-basement of an abandoned building, and it's only after you're scared out of your skin that you might even pause to think why x happened at z moment. Who cares! It's just scary! 

You would noooot like what this cute girl is seeing with that flashlight.
Yamishibai is like that. The off-kilter, paper-theater way the animation is presented only makes it more effective. Nothing is still in the frames, but ever-so-slightly moving. One of my favorites (they're all my favorites) of the baker's dozen of entries up on Crunchy Roll is "Contradiction", which opens with a ringing telephone in the middle of the night and a desperate call from a friend who thought it would be fun to break into an abandoned hospital with her boyfriend (you know, like you do). Spoiler alert: bad things happened at the hospital. I love how the emphasis in these little cutlets is not on working out, in a cerebral, mystery murder kind of way, why things are happening. The spare fact, just that things are happening, that is deeply unsettling. You know how, in a dream, there's no logic to what is terrifying about "that door", but you just know, somewhere in your primal little guts, that whatever's behind it is wrong, or bad? There's the exact nerve this and the other Japanese series hits. I wish someone in America would adopt this kind of gut-level horror! I'm so tired of all these wan Saw remakes-- pictures where people who don't understand what is scary try to make a whole movie about it. What we need is real, old-fashioned, curl your hair scares!

Turns out yes, they did. SO. FREAKIN. SCARY. (episode here)
It's neat, too, that the chapters are presented in their original Japanese with subtitles. Nothing in this world is worse for a foreign film o phile than sitting through something serious that has been dubbed. NOTHING. EUUGH. I can't bear it. Also, watching a ton of them back to back, my little parrot brain loves picking up a word or two in another language. Things I learned, which are things you need to know in a Japanese horror setting: chotto matte (wait a minute), Taihen-da! (something terrible, or an emergency), dou shita no (what's wrong?), oka-aah-san (mom!). Matthew, from his scholarly obsession with j-rock, old school anime, and Japanese video games, can speak actually quite a lot of Japanese (he took classes at TFLI, too, which couldn't have hurt his fluency), so I can be like "WHAT DO THEY KEEP SAYING?" and he can actually explain to me the vocabulary being used. Nerd alert. 

Have you watched anything deeply unsettling lately? Got a yen for horror that just isn't sated by your run of the mill teen scream movie? What do you like to watch on Halloween to get you in the proper spooky spirit? Let's talk!

If you end up watching an episode or two (or...again, all of them at once), let me know what you think!! Show link here.

That's all for today-- if I recover from the series of tiny cardiac episodes the ends of each of these clips has created in my terror-weakened body, I will be back tomorrow with more Halloween postings! Til then. :)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Casablanca Waiter Halloween Costume (2013)

Good morning!

For day two of my Halloween-week posts, I'll show you how we turned Matthew from "guy-without-a-costume" to "Hollywood extra of the golden age" in five steps or less. Folks, it CAN be done! I sent Matthew to the grocery store the Saturday afternoon, pre-party, and he came back home to a half dressed, frazzled Gold Dust Woman.

Matthew: ((walking in the door, buoyantly)) Hey, I got a different kind of salsa, you know it doesn't taste the same since they changed it that one time--
Me: ((stamping around in platform boots, while affixing hot rollers to hair, panicked)) We have six ravens in this house! Six! Any idea where any one of them may be?!
Matthew: ((gingerly sets new salsa on kitchen counter, with touching innocence)) No?
Me: Aaaaaack! [Cathy style, starts rampaging through Matthew's closet with 30 minutes until the party]

Don't worry though, because THIS suddenly occurred to me:

It looks even swankier when paired with the leopard print couch!!
I really out-do myself in hoarding weird vintage clothes, men's and women's both. Backstory: I was going to dress Matthew up as a shriner (remember my great fez?)-- come to find out, it is sorely looked upon for non-shriners to wear masonic garb (my bad). I thought maybe Matthew could dress as Edgar Allan Poe-- EAP's a favorite of mine, plus heck, Matthew looks a little like him...but I was unable to locate any of the umpteen ravens I bought in a fit of The Birds decorating mania one year (and too proud to buy another). Saturday morning, at the flea market, I found a fez (with a vinyl carrying joke!) on a $5 table outside the dairy exhibition building, and picked it up thinking I might be able to dress him up as Victor Mature in The Shanghai Gesture, a kind of suave, desert lothario. Finally, we hit upon inspiration...a French Morrocan waiter in an old forties' movie! No, seriously! Matthew's friend Brian texted him to ask if my parents' party was a dress-up thing, and Matthew texted him back the following picture with the caption, "You tell me" :
I drew his moustache in a little crooked, but he's still adorable.
I know you're going "Why would you think forties' waiter first off when seeing a fez like this?", and do you know, I searched the internet up and down to try and explain to Matthew where it was his costume inspiration was coming from. Many, many hits on Wilmer Valderrama later, I was able to find this Australian costume company website's "1920's waiter costume", which I combined here with a photo of the exterior of Rick's Café Americain from Casablanca:
See! I'm not crazy! (N.B.: I may still be crazy)
We used a white Navy dress-uniform jacket (the Navy equivalent of a black-tie uniform) and a cummerbund from some long ago estate sale, a seventies' bow-tie that is a little too John Travolta, but it couldn't be helped, a pair of white gloves, and the fez from the flea market...and voilĂ ! Costume. My husband says to me on the ride over to the party, "I am more than happy to be the canvas. And this is a really great costume!" Crisis averted. Look at the stamp inside the fez:

The same hat on Worthpoint here

Authentic, huh! I thought it was just a very good quality party fez...turns out, it's the real deal from Cairo, probably sometime in the fifties'! The same hat, with the same case, sold on in 2011 for $78 USD. GOOD GRIEF! Score.

Here's Matthew and my dad from the party itself-- I love how they look like they're from the same movie, Pappy as a Clark-Gable-in-Mogambo style safarist, and Matthew as a local double agent at the Casbah Club. We grabbed one of my many serving trays for him to use as a prop, and what's more, it came in handy! Soon, Sus, her husband Matt, and I were sipping Coke Zeros and crackin' up about Halloweens past, as Matthew murmured in his best faux French accent, "Mesdames, messieurs, bienvenue to ze Casbah clooob.". Later, we carved pumpkins with the Huberts, and had a ball! It was a great start to whatever else Halloween season 2013 has in store for us!

What's your favorite "last minute" costume? Have any strokes of genius in the midst of a panic? Are you more of a "planning it for months" costumier or a "Um, I'm...uh...a college student?" type fancy dress donner? Let's talk!

That's all for today but more shrieks and scares on the blog tomorrow. I'll see you then!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Stevie Nicks Halloween Costume (2013)

Good morning!

I know, it's a little late to get ramped up about All Hallow's Eve-- I just put out my jack o lantern and my skeleton-that-plays-"Dixie"-for-no-apparent-reason (he's a rebel skeleton from the dirty south? I have no this one but sans the hat) today, which makes me feel like I've missed it altogether! However, with some festivities behind us (my folks' Halloween get together) and some yet ahead (my friend Kate's annual bash), we're ready to keep the spirit of Halloween alive in our hearts. Today and tomorrow, I'll show you our costumes from this past weekend, and hopefully, by Friday, we'll be ready for Saturday eve's fancy dressup occasion.

Here's my first costume, which, as the title of this post would clue you in, is a nod to the gypsy frontwoman of Fleetwood Mac:

A rare, eyeliner-less Lisa! I hadn't decided what to do for makeup at this point, and forgot
to take more pictures in the rush to get out the door!!
This was my best Stevie Nicks impersonation without actually going to the lengths of dyeing or feather perming my hair a reasonable Stevie platinum (I thought about it, but I couldn't commit to keeping it blonde). I'm wearing four inch heels and a top hat, which, as my dad pointed out upon my arrival at his house, actually makes me taller than his own 6'2'' (I think 6'6'' or so, including the hat, was the final tally). I have always (been a storm?) harbored a completely un-secret ambition to front a Stevie Nicks cover band, and now I know I have the wardrobe to pull it off, at least!! Now, to book some casino gigs and find a backing band....

My style board:
Inspiration hat, sequins, boots. DONE.
Stevie's Fleetwood Mac (1975) and early Rumours (1977) look, on stage and off, was more bohemian gypsy patchwork than Welsh witch. I've always been a fan of the Rumours world tour or Tusk (1979) and onwards look of just piles of chiffon, velvet, sequins...shoulderpads out to like your mom probably had when you were a kid, teased to bejesus...that's my speed in a heartbeat. While her leotards and angel-sleeved black sheet dresses were chic, that "no, seriously, I'm in a rock and roll band" look of the late seventies' and early eighties' for Stevie is one of my favorites (and way more recognizable than say a even a cool outfit like this). To put it together, I wore a top hat from Thrift Smart out on Nolensville Rd, and teeteringly high heeled boots from  the newly opened Goodwill at Indian Lake. Items from the Zelda boutique off Hillsboro Rd's moving sale (Patterson Estate Sales did the honors) rounded out my look-- panne velvet layered lavender skirt,  sequined shawl pinned onto a camisole, and, my favorite piece, this 1910's jacket, which came with the following label:

OH MY SWEET LORD, $595. HOW. I knew the store, now in a larger location near the Bluebird Cafe and within walking distance of its old location, was a chi-chi, upscale kind of place to buy women's clothing . In its former incarnation on Harding Road (most of the estate sale inventory was from that time, I guess?), the boutique seems to have sold actually antique lace flapper dresses and remade/remodeled vintage clothing of a romantic persuasion. Lots of sequins, feathers, and feminine boho lines on these exquisite clothes-- however, I had no idea I would have to take out a loan to shop there retail back in the day! The coat was marked down to $195, as you see on the label, then priced at $70 by Patterson-- I got it for half off on the second day, so $35 total expenditure (which, before I saw the old price tag, I actually thought was a little high when compared with flea market prices for similar goods! Eeek!). Here are some close ups of my Stevie clothes:

You can see the detail on the sequined shawl and the jacket's embroidery a little better up close, but not much (I have to get a better camera, kids!). I wish I could wear stuff like this all the time, to tell the truth! I have a whole Rubbermaid storage bin, in my closet, of sequins and black velvet, chiffon and taffeta, shoulder padded, nipped waisted, jackets and blouses and skirts and dresses, circa 1980-1992. All black or gold or silver. As ubiquitous as these items seem on Goodwill racks now, I know that someday they'll come back into fashion, and I won't be able to have my actual-gold-items at fool's gold prices! I visited Pura Vida Vintage on Music Row a month or two ago with Jen Quier, and saw that there was a whole front room of these kinds of frippery, and knew my hoarding hadn't been in vain!

Anyway, what do you think? How would you make this outfit even "more Stevie"? Kelsey opined "MORE SCARVES. ALWAYS MORE SCARVES." and my friend Caroline, "You need to crimp your hair!" (words that have not been spoken so earnestly since 1994). Have you dressed up as a favorite celebrity for Halloween before? What touches made your costume especially "that person"? Let's talk!


That's all for today, but I will see you guys back here tomorrow for more HaaaaalllllooooooWEEEEEN..... (thunderclap, organ music). Til then! :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Photo Friday: Halloween's on its Way! Edition (1966-1967)

Good morning! 

 Do you know, this has been such a crazy year that I'd all but forgotten about the best holiday of the season coming up? H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N, BAYBEE. It's practically upon us. As the big day falls on a Thursday this year (what a gyp), I'll be celebrating the weekend after at a friend's combination birthday/witching hour party. While I usually go to elaborate lengths to use the event as an excuse for a DIY extravaganza, this year we're going a little more low key (but still fun! I'll show you our costumes next week)...however! That does not mean my little heart isn't bleeding orange and black for the holiday itself. 

In early celebration, here are some fabulous photos I found on flickr of Other People's Halloweens, year of our Lord 1966-1967. Let's take a look!

Now, here's what I'm talking about. The whole classroom is working together in a symphony of visual stimulation here. Superheroes, skeletons, clowns, devils, about the one ball-fringe festooned witch's broom laid carelessly on the work table in front of her? I love thinking that someone's mom had come for the yearly Halloween party, and as the teacher had everyone rise for some kind of activity, thought to take a quick snap of the room as a whole. Whose kid is the mom's, do you think? I can remember the excitement with which I was imbued as my mom volunteered to get scary, chocolate iced cupcakes with little rings shaped like neon spiders and skulls from the Kroger's bakery for our first grade Halloween party, and how disappointed I was when I caught a cold on the big day and wasn't able to wow everyone with my home-assembled princess costume (pointed hat with trailing tulle and all, in gold and white!). I'm pretty sure I recovered in time for the actual trick or treating, but missed the gratitude of my tiny classmates for the store-bought cupcakes. Do you remember how much of a hero you felt like when your mom or dad or grandma would come to school for this or that occasion, bearing food?

This little guy is so over his Superman costume, he could care less that he has an officially licensed cape and "S" to go out under. I love his splayed feet and the hightops on them (Clark Kent didn't have time to change out of his street shoes, ok?). How about that patterned linoleum and the slim lines of that olive drab colored couch?


A similarly fully licensed character, this guy is way too teeny for his muscly-counterpart's head mask! It gives the weirdest sense of proportion to see a chisel-jawed, Bruce Wayne face on this diminutive, toddler body! I bet that little guy had a ball that year. Look at his brother like, "Hey, Mikey...there's something different about you, I just can't put my finger on it..."

I love this one just because I would want a costume like this for myself, uh, now. Look at little girl's cat's eye glasses to match her leopard ensemble! Ugh! She is to cute! Also, it's rocking that she's dispensed with the mittens attached to her costume for better getting-at-candy. What loot! Full size Hershey bars! Good work!

Thes children are terrifying, but committed to full costumery, which I can respect. Do you love their homemade Halloween decorations, lovingly taped to the mantle over the Encyclopedia Brittanica (my grandma had World Book, but what a familiar sight, encyclopedias at the homestead!)...? I am gaga over that tiny Halloween-themed diorama of which I am squinting to make out the details. I wish the older sibling's costume was like this much less horrifying, because that hat with the shrieking black cat on it is actually pretty boss.

The starkness of this photo is what cracks me up more than the DIY ness of the paper bag costuming. "Turn to the front! Now to the back! And then over to the sarge's desk for fingerprinting and processing!" Straight up Weegee up in this piece. I think the kid made the owl suit himself, and if you look at the details, it's pretty well done, overall, for a grade schooler. Do you see how the neck and the wings correspond up to his own neck and arms on the back panel of the costume? A lot of impact on a little budget. Whooo can just hear him cooing, hands outstretched for candy? A for effort, sir.

A GI Joe deep sea diver suit, which looked like this in real life as a toy. Isn't he cute? I wonder if there was some kind of helmet included that the kid chose not to wear of if the little stocking cap was all you got. Look at how detailed the little belt and gun at the hip are, complete with see-through fish panel on the right leg. I've decided licensed character Halloween costume designer for kids would be another of my dream jobs of the mid century. I want a couple like this to frame and hang in the house!

This little girl is Cinderella (with her glamorous mom and a tv I would like to own). The grown-up woman who posted the photo throws in her two cents in the caption, which I'll duplicate in part here: "This costume came in a box from the store. It made my face itchy and I couldn't really see...I look a little like Dame Edna here - seriously. Who thought this was gorgeous Cinderella??" The sweet part is, though, her own daughter went as (a much less weird, completely cute, Disney-tie-in) Cinderella for Halloween around the same age! I do have to agree with her that the while I love this dress, the mask for Cinderella is so weird!! 

Speaking of weird masks, one of these things is not like the other:
Can you see a mother saying to her four children, "Ok, you're a's your ghost...and you're gonna be..." "MOO-O-O-OM, I wanna be Bugs Bunny! I don't wanna be a ghost!" "Maybe you could be Bugs Bunny as a ghost, you know, after he goes to Rabbit Heaven?" "NO. IT IS NOT THE SAME. I HAVE TO BE BUGS BUNNY." The expressions on the maskless children are so sweet, and those tiny dark eyes poking out from Bugs's face mask! Just priceless.

Did you have a favorite (or least favorite, haha) Halloween costume as a little guy or girl? Which of these costumes do you think is the best or the worst? What do you remember most about Halloween as a grade schooler, particularly in a time period where they still let you celebrate Halloween with ghouls and goblins and witches in public school (I think I was just on the tail end of that golden era)? Let's talk!

Have a spo-o-o-o-oky weekend, and I'll see you guys back here on Monday. Til then!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Photoplay Movie Star Clippings (1938)

Good morning!

Lovely Carole Lombard

Well, I'll tell you-- I don't know if it's the cold weather or what, but it has been such a wackadoodle week here at the library I am just barely making it through! One of the things that makes on-desk, non-patron helping time more bearable? The ever-giving Media History Project archive, which, if you recall from my having mentioned it in the past, is A TREASURE TROVE of full-scanned items from Hollywood's golden era, spanning as far back as the teens and as far forward as 1938. Yesterday, I digitally "clipped" some items from the 1938 volume and thought you fellow film fans might find them interesting. 

Take a look!

One feature brings cinephiles in on the cutting edge of what's going on at the studios, and don't I love the on-set photographs of  budding or established stars! Here, an impossibly young Hepburn is paired with an as-always slickly handsome Cary Grant (in glasses!) for their forthcoming February 1938 release, the screwball classic Bringing Up Baby. This was the second of four movies they would make together-- they'd previously been paired on-screen for Hepburn's gender-bending title role in Sylvia Scarlett, and they would meet again on screen for late 1938's Holiday and 1941's The Philadelphia Story. As pretty as Hep' looks in this photo, I'm reminded of gossip journalist/Grant girlfriend Maureen Donaldson's indiscreet memoir, An Affair to Remember: My Life with Cary Grant. Watching one of their old movies together, Maureen remarked on how beautiful KH looked on screen, all high cheekbones, to which Grant replied something along the lines of "Oh, Maureen, she looks exactly like a horse in real life and you know it." Sheesh! Eye of the beholder, I guess. They both look devastatingly glamorous to me in this shot!

1938 is the year of the hand, apparently, as Photoplay seems more than a little obsessed with both the back and the front of your favorite movie stars' hands. Palmistry, anyone? Our Joan's hands are "elastic" skinned, with honest and frank nails (I thought they looked a little sinister, but I'm no Taroist!). Tyrone Power's hands, left, give him away as "an impulsive, quick-witted, impatient person". There were further articles about the palms in later issues of the magazine, but I was mostly interested in La Crawford's witchy, pointed nails. Can you imagine making stuff like this up every week? Would keep a copywriter on their toes!

Dainty little late thirties' pumps...what is not to like about the cutouts on the ones backed in red, or the black and white starkness of the blue backgrounded pair? If you're a size seven, you can avail yourself to a pair of Vitality shoes on ebay right now! Oooh, but they look sassy. I'll hold out for a pair in my size (one can dream!). Here are some more pumps from Paris Fashion shoes...the heels are higher and the prices lower! A, um, heavily made up Betty Grable appears to the left of the advertisement, and I wish someone had laid off the color palette a little while tinting this black and white snap! Yeeks, that blush!

It's ok, though, I can revitalize my little peepers with a long look at a famous swashbuckler off screen and candid:

Errol Flynn, looking fittingly athletic in the midst of a tennis match...he's still one of my worst crushes. Flynn actually wrote a column for Photoplay which may or may not have been ghostwritten-- unlike most Hollywood actor/ "authors", the good looking period picture star actually harbored literary aspirations! He published a book called Beam Ends, based on some of his real life adventures on the high seas, in 1937 as well as a fiction book, Showdown, which appeared in 1946 (his My Wicked, Wicked Ways memoir was ghosted by friend Earl Conrad). Honestly, I just like to look at him.  (Update: Sharp-eyed Maureen has pointed out it's Wayne Morris and not Errol Flynn in the above photo! I guess I let all the Adventures of Robin Hood ballyhoo in the 1938 volume go to my head...also, PS, Wayne Morris, please fill out my thirties' dream date dance card, as you are too cute!)

Here's Hepburn again in a F-U-N coat and in about those sweeping oversized lapels and huge, color contrast buttons in black velvet? I would wear this, oh, now. On the next page, Joan reappears in another ensemble I'd like to snatch from hat to shoe. The hat! The gold braid! The drama! 1938 would have apparently been a very good year for me to be a movie fan (or Photoplay subscriber!).

Another thought, post Grant's badmouthing of Hepburn's looks, is on the glamour or lack thereof of poor Bette Davis. The actress often got called an "ugly duckling" among some of the swans of Tinseltown in the late thirties', but here she is at the height of her Warner Brothers years looking quite pretty in her hair and makeup as Julie from Jezebel! I love the inset of what looks to be the Davis of a few years earlier or so (same hair as Cabin in the Cotton or Dangerous, isn't it?)-- maybe she did another skin cream ad and they recycled the photos from that. There was a lot of gab about Davis, who at one time was in the running for the lead in Gone with the Wind, and her suitability or unsuitability towards that role, contemporaneous to this time period. Clark Gable, in something or other I can't source at the moment, famously said that the woman who played Scarlett O'Hara would have to be pretty enough to make it believable that Rhett had such semi-inexhaustible stores of patience and tenacity towards landing her as a mate, and specifically that Bette Davis was not possessed of that beauty. As much as I love how much of pistol Davis is onscreen, I don't know that I don't agree with him (especially seeing how perfect, P-E-R-F-E-C-T Vivien Leigh was in the final product).

Bette Davis talks a good game about having missed bagging the much-coveted role of Scarlett O'Hara by "this much" in sixties' interviews and her autobiography, but I don't think she ever came as near as she makes out to playing the century's best Southern belle. Her probably more-than-a-little-apocryphal story involves a snit with studio head Jack Warner, the possible loaning out of Errol Flynn as Rhett (that part I believe, but no one but Gable was seriously considered after Gable let on that he would even possibly play the lead), and the lost role of lifetime for the actress, who has a weird thing for Southern accents throughout her career (which...I'm sorry, being from the South, knowing some great Southern accents, is not nearly as impressive as La Davis would have us think). Still, what a firecracker of an ad for her Gone with the Wind-esque role in Jezebel, which landed her an Oscar that year. The plot-advancing red "debutante" dress photographs black in this black and white production, but here we get to see it in all its garnet glory. "Meanest when she's lovin' most!"

An exotic looking Dolores del Rio, whose career dated back to silents. In 1938, she was still married to MGM art director Cedric Gibbons, and a few years away from her red-hot affair with a young Orson Welles. Doesn't she look just like a Mayan princess in this Lucky Strike ad? The complicated dress and her regal good looks are distracting me from the oxymoronic cigarette ad in the back ground.

Loretta Young looking exactly as I would like to look in year of our Lord 1938. The green and violet combination! The deep emerald colored frou-frou hat! The slash of red lip! Oh, what I wouldn't give to copy this look wholesale.

There's a lot more to be seen on the Media History Project website-- what are you waiting for? Go check it out! Are there starlets or stars of this era that you particular seek out? What do you think about Bette Davis as Scarlett O'Hara? Are there any celebrities that everyone says is gorgeous whose appeal eludes you or who you think is just plain homely? Or vice versa, someone who is thought to be unattractive who you think is a regular glamour goddess? Let's talk!

That's all for today, but I'll see you back here tomorrow for Photo Friday! Have a great Thursday, and I'll see you then.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Skelebuddies with Matthew (2013)

Good morning!

In a change of pace from the vintage news articles and items-I've-picked-up, I had a cache of original drawings from this weekend that I just had to share with you. While my now-husband Matthew considers himself a video game connossieur, a composer, and a tech geek, in that order, I think he often leaves off his list of accomplishments how good he is at cartooning. One of my favorite games to play as we while away a lazy Sunday with me watching old movies on Youtube and him working his way through the Castlevania series for the umpteenth time is to think of a hypothetical scenario and have him cartoon it out in his own quirky, cute style.

Portrait of the artist as a young Bab
1) Backstory: I was watching a bunch of old Dick Cavett clips on the Sunday in question... last week when I caught the Bette Davis interview, I was delighted to see another thirty or forty segments from his talk show and with celebrity guests I want to know more about! Truman Capote interrupting Groucho Marx (and vice versa!). Janis Joplin making dirty comments over Gloria Swanson. Bill Cosby talking about his jazz aspirations with Jack Benny. Katharine Hepburn literally moving the furniture on set to better suit her capricious mood. Magic! So I asked Matthew to do a drawing of a skeleton interviewing Elvis (sadly, Elvis never appeared on the Cavett show, but Cavett has never been a skeleton to date, so accuracy is not in the foreground here). Matthew got frustrated five minutes in going, "I can't draw Elvis!" I countered, "If it looks bad, you can just say it's Andrew Dice Clay!" Matthew: "No, that would mess with the punch, I'm just going to do my best." A couple scribbles and scrabbles later, his efforts yielded:

I love that the host has is own "SKELETALK" proprietary mug, and the closeup of the second "panel". Also, "SKELVIS". You can laugh now. Being a little outsider artist myself, and completely horrible at anything but faces and dead-on angles, I can't get over how "human" the little body languages come across.

2) Backstory: Still Youtubing talk shows, I watched as a feather trimmed Lucille Ball seemed to get in a sideways dig at Cavett's diminutive height (he's 5'6'') during one clip. "You're a little short handed," she says in that gravelly, Lucille not Lucy voice, and leveled her cool blue eyes at her host. That exchange caused me to google Lucille Ball's height. Ah! Also 5'6''! Or possibly as tall as 5'7''. The Internet can't seem to make up its mind on the former Arnazes. Desi, for example, is somewhere between 5'6'' and 6'', according to fluctuating Google accounts, with some Desliu obsessed boards pointing out visible lifts in Desi's tassled loafers. This prompted me to ask Matthew to draw two skeletons that are both the same size, with one crabbing at the other for his perceived "shortness". Matthew came up with this:

THE TINY SKELETONS ARE SO CUTE. THEY ARE SO CUTE. The enormous skull head coming out of nowhere was a nice touch, as well. This reminds me of some of the bosses in old arcade games (there's definitely one in Altered Beast, but there are others I'm not thinking of because it's before I've had my coffee this morning).

Last but not least:

3) Backstory: Matthew was listening to me tell him all about Eartha Kitt and her career after I read this heartbreaking article on DailyMail about her fruitless search for her real father. I reminded him of  Kitt's holiday single "Santa Baby", her tenure as Catwoman in the old Adam West Batman tv series, and her small but memorable role as Madame Rena in Friday Foster. "Oh yeah!" he intones. "I remember the Friday Foster thing." (I made him watch a LOT of Pam Grier movies when we first dated, it's a mercury test for whether or not we'll get along...and we did!). Moments later, Matthew stopped to ask, "So what has she been up to lately? Has she been in anything?" Me: "Uh, no, as she died in 2008." Matthew: "Ugggh! I thought she was alive this whole time!" 

A semi-literal interpretation of Matthew's delayed reaction to EK's passing:

Me: ((laughing)) Why does she look like something out of Tales from the Crypt?!" Matthew: ((chuckling to self)) "Grow another butt. Get it?"

Do you have any daydream doodles you like to come up with when you're bored? What kinds of things do you look up on Youtube on a boring afternoon off work? What other scenarios involving skeletons would you deem appropriate to go through Matthew's idea hopper? Let's talk!

I gotta get back to work, but I'll see you tomorrow with more vintage stuff. Take care! Til then.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Weekend Finds: Scary Books apalooza

Good morning!

Remember what I said about not buying as many books as I used to in order to conserve space? I work in a library, for goodness's sake, there is no reason I should bury myself in books I would have equal access to in my day to day trials and travails! Well, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando: I LIIIIED. Here's me at the breakfast table today, where spread before me is not a morning's repast of flax cereal and coffee, but rather, an embarrassment of riches in the horror/ghost story book category:

I was at Great Escape in Madison last weekend, which you could see as being either fortuitously or in-fortuitously right around the corner from my folks' house, doing a bended-knee aisle walk under the comic books section, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a selection of books that looked like they were plucked from my own subconscious wish list. While Matthew looks at vintage video gaming consoles and accessories on our too-frequent visits to this fine establishment, I like to pick up reprints of fifties' horror comics, the occasional movie-tie-in book, or old movie star magazine from the "other" category of things the record store carries. Sunday, there was an unusually high number of books that I love for unusually low prices! Let's take a look at my spoils:

1) Weird Tales anthologies:

Weird Tales was a pulp magazine that originally ran from 1926-1954, chilling and thrilling a generation of scare-obsessed kids who, in some cases, grew up to be writers-of-weird-tales themselves! Authors like Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, all pioneers of sci-fi and speculative fiction, trace their early influences (and some of their early print appearances!) back to this magazine, which provided many young readers with their first exposure to fantasy greats like H.P. Lovecraft (see the Cthulu style creature on the cover of the book on the left). While Best of Weird Tales turned out to be an anthology of the magazine's late twentieth century reincarnation (might still be good! I'm holding out hope), Weird Tales, as edited by Marvin Kaye, has story selections from the beginning of the magazine's run to that revival period in the eighties'. I am looking forward to leafing through these ASAP.

Original, Vargas-y Weird Tales covers from the thirties' and forties'. How about that bat mask?

2) Celebrity tie-in collections:

I am a stone cold sucker for fifty cents apiece, who could resist these covers, much less what is inside them? The companion record to the Karloff book is selling on ebay for $50.00....ugh! I hope I come across it in a Goodwill someday, as I did this copy of his Tales of Mystery and Imagination (estate sale, a dog's age ago, wasn't more than a dollar). He has the best voice for audiobooks...did you know he was the narrator for the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas tv special? It's true! The stories in the Karloff book are kind of lame (I think they were intended for a grade-school audience more than the grown-up spookies-seeker such as I), but the Rod Serling compilation on the right is pretty sharp!

3) Edward Gorey (!!!!)

Since my devilishly precocious best friend Charley introduced me to Edward Gorey in eighth grade, I have been a huge fan of the illustrator/author's macabre collections. The first of his four Amphi-title omnibi, Amphigorey, on the right, is an anthology of fifteen smaller books. This includes The Gashlycrumb Tinies (a letter of the alphabet for each way in which an unfortunate child met its untimely demise) and The Doubtful Guest (with its iconic little creature in striped scarf and high tops). Dark humor, much? PITCH black in most cases. Still, there's something singular about the stories and the accompanying illustrations that make his work really in a class all of its own. Edward Gorey's The Haunted Looking Glass is a collection of famous (and infamous) short stories selected by EG punctuated with Gorey-penned tableaux to accompany the texts. This is not new territory for the author-- he worked for Doubleday in the fifties' and early sixties' illustrating paperback covers. Owing to my aforementioned weakness for the things, I probably have a dozen or so of these books with their weirdly lined, engaging little cover art (my favorite is hands down his drawing of French author Marcel Proust on the cover of Pleasures and Days...I wish I had a poster of it). I am in a state of high anticipation to see what he chose of other's work for his own spooky collection!

 4) Mysterious Marie Laveau: Voodoo Queen

A New Orleans local press publication, this slim volume recounts tales of Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (who, incidentally, features prominently in this season of American Horror Story: Coven) and other strange happenings down on the Bayou. Since having visited Louisiana last year with Matthew and Rob, I have a special place in my heart for this weird, deeply historic region, and want to know more about voodoo legends in the U.S. (as opposed to The Serpent and the Rainbow's international look at ancient black arts).

 5) That which is not as it appears!

Ok, see how Gary Oldman in Coppola's Dracula, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and no less than FREDDY KRUEGER grace the cover of The Armchair Horror Collection? Guess who are in no way associated whatsoever with the material between these covers? This collection is actually way better than any of the three promised cover-stars, in that it presents the original source short stories for classic tv supernatural and ghost story series like One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, and Tales of the Unexpected. I. LOVE. ANTHOLOGIES. LIKE. THIS. I haven't read a bad one yet and am halfway through its 700 pages! Authors include Roald Dahl, Cornell Woolrich, Robert Bloch, and H. Russell Wakefield, among others. Possibly the best thing out of all these finds.

6) Selection of occult/supernatural digests from the seventies':

Last but not least, I laid hands on these complete weirdies as they were stacked up on top of the discount comic books under the cds. Fate: True Stories of the Strange and Unknown is a digest style monthly publication (that is still around, maybe? Is this the same thing?), and you had me at the cover's troubling questions about the unseen world around us. "Winged Weirdies: Seen Any Lately?" and "What Happens Between Death and Rebirth?" are just two of the leads here. Inside, some 1972 reader has highlighted a bunch of classifieds at the end of the magazine, advertising everything from crystal balls and planchettes to a call for recruitment from a coven-master in New Jersey (tough gig). There's a whole feature called True Mystic Experiences in each issue which invites the reader to send in their true tales of brushes with the bizarre. The real life accounts are accompanied by the name and photograph of the person who experienced the event, which may well be the very best part. Fifty cents a piece! I couldn't pass these up.

So! What do you have on your reading list? Which of these titles do you think you would try and delve into first? Have any ghost story or horror collection recommendations as we skate ever closer towards Halloween? What did you find out in the world this weekend? Let's talk!

That's all for today, and if I don't scare myself silly tonight, I'll be back with more vintage goods tomorrow. Have a great Tuesday! Til then.


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